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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

Heart Attack - The Experience Itself, And I flogged A Book!

Now, I do not know about you my dear chum, but I never thought that I would experience a heart attack as part of my life and times. Maybe somewhat naively, I just assumed that if you're battling cancer, then your bad-luck-meter would discount something additionally unpleasant happening on the grounds that you already have quite enough to deal with, thank you very much.

But, oh dear me, as usual, I got that assumption horribly wrong. So, let me set the scene if I may. One of the many medical challenges that this tough year has thrown up has been the added joy of two new blood clots. The first one is 25 cm long and and decided to set up home in my left thigh. Long story short, after months of daily injections which are essentially blood thinners, it has now solidified itself, bit like a fossil. Indeed, if my mortal remains were ever to be examined by archaeologists, long after I have shuffled off my mortal coil, they might well find small fossilized sea urchins not unlike the Jurassic coast in Dorset. Anyway, we are now quite comfortable in our co-existence and generally ignore each other, not unlike an old, unhappily married couple.

The heart attack episode really started off when blood clot number two was formally identified after a CT scan. This one, however, is located in my chest not near the heart itself, but near enough. Indeed, it sits very close to the port in my chest. A port, by the way, is a plastic pin cushion that is used to attach the saline drips that flood the different chemotherapy treatments inside you.

My port has been experiencing some problems of late and had not been behaving itself, resulting in long waits of several hours before my actual chemo could begin. So, a 4-hour visit was now 7 or even 8 hours, which was darned nuisance for all concerned. The reason for this looking back was the proximity of the blood clot, getting in the way bit like an old Tesco trolley in a canal.

So, I had been warned that once the clot was confirmed that any chest pain and/or shortness of breath should immediately be reported, as there was a possibility that the clot could cause a heart attack. Duly noted, I noticed that as I was teaching Karate on my Sunday afternoon class, that there was a certain tightness in my chest on the right side. It was fairly minor, but as the day wore on, I noticed it more and more.

When I woke up on the Monday, it was still there, no better, no worse, just there, as I suffered no shortness of breath, I decided that I would monitor the situation. I was also due at attend a special blood test at 1600 at Warwick.

When I arrived I was asked how I was feeling and I told the nurse that I was bit concerned, she then went and fetched Graham, my mate and the senior nurse, who told me that they would arrange for an ECG a heart test.

That was done, then a nice lady doctor appeared and said the ECG showed a problem and that I was being sent immediately to A and E in Coventry. The ambulance was there in 5 minutes and off we went, blue lights wailing as we dashed to Coventry through the peak time afternoon traffic.

The two paramedics were great. One hooked me up to another ECG which showed a very jumpy heart beat. "Look at that!" he said, "It's jumping around like a banshee. Does it normally do that?" he asked. "No." I replied. "Never."

"Well," he said, "that is what a heart attack looks like." Funnily enough, at that point I then heard the driver on his radio, where he confirmed that was a 62-year-old male having a heart attack, then I realised they were talking about me.

As we drove along, the paramedic and I started chatting. I then noticed that my phone was nearly out of charge, so I looked in my bag to see if my charger was around. As I did this, I pulled out a copy of my book, at which point my man said: "Oh what is that?"

Well, that was it. I told him that it was my book. He then asked if he could have a look at it, and I handed it over. 20 minutes later and he said this is very good and he asked me how much it was "£25.00." I replied, and good news is I have my card reader. So he brought the book I offered to sign it and then I did.

Back of the net, I thought as we pulled into A and E, as it transpired I was there for 7 hours, my timing was bad as A and E was full of drunk England fans who had been drinking since Gareth and the boys beat Iran by 100 nil or whatever it was.

Lots of blood tests and a CT scan later, a very nice young lady doctor came and told me that at 11.50 PM they were going to send me home. In essence, the blood clot had interrupted the top two pumps at the top of the heart, hence the irregular heart beat.

Satisfied I was now stable, I was sent home at 01:10 AM, and as I waited for my Uber, I was delighted to be joined by the drunk football fans, the end of a great day.

I was diagnosed with beta blockers which essentially slow the heart beat down. Within 24 hours, I was back to normal, well as normal as I get.

So, on reflection, a somewhat scary experience that reminded me of my mortality, but, on the positive, I flogged a book on the way to A and E. Every cloud, my dearest chums. You see no matter how bad things get, you always have to look on the bright side of life, after all those books won't sell themselves.

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