I woke up last night, I had chest pains and the usual leg pains but it was the chest pains that were bothering me!
I laid there listening to my heart beat somehow thinking I could tell if something was wrong by just hearing it beat, the pain was intense and went across the top of my chest and into my left arm; I laid there deciding whether or not I should wake my wife and tell her.
Before I get people commenting telling me I should have woken my wife and called an ambulance, I think I need to go back a few years, well 18!
Back then I was fit, I would ride my bike to work everyday and also ride for pleasure, I was twenty six and life was good, well at least until one December morning when I collapsed with chest pains whilst playing with my daughters. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the local hospital, in fact it was a couple of blocks away. After some tests a doctor explained that I had something called pericarditis which is an inflammation of the fluid filled sac that surrounds the heart, I was going to be admitted and have more tests and so I was taken to a ward and monitored.
I had been told to report any pain and whilst joking with another patient on the ward I called a nurse, I told her my little finger hurt and expected her to tell me off for alerting her to a painful finger but instead she did an ECG which is a reading of the electrical activity of the heart. Suddenly it wasn’t so funny, she shouted for a doctor and things became very serious and yet I felt okay, one doctor was putting a needle in the back of my hand whilst another was shouting to a nurse asking for a bed on cardiac care. Within fifteen minutes I was in cardiac care with leads everywhere and several different drugs being fed to me via a drip!
The next day things didn’t calm down, I was prepared for transport and wheeled down to a waiting ambulance with a doctor and a nurse for company, “it’s going to be noisy” said a paramedic, “don’t worry it’s just the sirens!” I laughed because I really thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t and we set off with blue lights and sirens on and this was up the main A road and onto the M25, “we need you to stay calm” the doctor said but I was calm, it was so surreal.
I finally ended up at the London chest hospital, it had been an interesting journey because through London I watched out the back window at drivers using the ambulance to get through traffic, it was crazy, but now it felt real because I was in cardiac intensive care.
A woman opposite was drinking a cup of tea when she flopped back into the pillows, an alarm sounded and the room was suddenly filled with doctors and nurses, the curtains around our beds were drawn but it was obvious that they were fighting to save her life. Phrases that we are so used to hearing on TV shows were being said “charging and clear” the sound of the heart being shocked with electricity to save her life. I admit that I cried, my situation suddenly felt very real and very scary. The curtains were drawn back and to my surprise the woman was sat up in bed and she waved at me and then carried on drinking her tea, it was unbelievable!
I had an angiogram the next day, a catheter was put into my femoral artery and a wire or catheter fed to my heart whilst they view it via x-ray, a dye is squirted in and they can see if there are any blockages. Thankfully there was no sign of any problems and by the time my wife visited that afternoon, I was allowed home. Unfortunately it was only a few days before I was back in cardiac care at my local hospital, apparently my chest pains were being caused by an inverted T-wave. I was kept on the unit for a few days and one morning the consultant and his entourage approached and he said that all tests were normal and “your problem is above the neck, not below it”, I was told to get back out there and get over it!
I did just that, his words had offended me because he was so harsh and abrupt, well that’s an old school hospital consultant for you. A few days later I got on my bike and went for a ride, the fresh air felt amazing and I wondered if he was right, however it wasn’t long before I felt like I had no energy, I felt so unwell and only just made it home, I was laid up for several days.
So anyway the following year my GP referred me to see a Dr Elizabeth Dowsett, she did some basic tests and she spent nearly two hours examining me, asking me to do certain tasks and the outcome was that I had ME/CFS! That was in 1997 but I still get chest pains now, if I mention this to a doctor I am sent straight to A&E (ER) for tests because they can’t risk gambling on the fact it could be the ME/CFS. I’m now told I have a naturally occurring inverted T-wave but I had several ECG’s prior to falling ill, it was for work purposes and I was given the all clear.
So last night I laid there with chest pains, I’m now in my late 40’s and I’m carrying a lot more weight, I’m in chronic pain after knee surgery and have been diagnosed with CRPS, my lifestyle is now sedentary and so I worry if it’s something to worry about, do I ask for an ambulance?
Until next time!