Not about me
I had hoped when I started writing this blog that there would not be too much of me. I like to write and play with words; but I also wanted to write about the human experiences that have touched me in some ways; some good and of course, some not so good. Today I received news that made me sad and the time has come to share experience.
A visit to the local garage
Living as I do in a very rural area, with a dispersed population means that neighbourly paths often do not cross for a few weeks at a time. So when I was at the local garage today and my mate down there asked me if I knew Dave who did his paint jobs for him, I was pleased because I thought that finally, he was going to tell me that he had found a buyer for his business.
A sudden shock
It was not the case at all. Dave was dead. He died on Tuesday. One minute he had indigestion and the next minute, after going in to get a hot drink to help it pass, then he was in the car and being driven by his partner at top speed to the main hospital over 20 miles away. He didn’t make it and had two heart attacks in the car.
The Doctors were concerned enough to find out what had happened and they found that the arteries to the heart were all blocked up and they meant blocked. Well and truly.
A great mystery
Why I write this is that Dave had no pain. No warning. And I should know, because I didn’t have any pain but I did get a warning and I was lucky enough to be able to act on the warning. When I came out of the surgery last September, I realised slowly that I had had lots of warnings over time and that I had been ill for about five or six years.
But there is no pain
Mostly we are told that with any kind of heart problem, there is a pain. They ask you in hospital “Have you a pain? Where is the pain?” And it is true, that many people get a pain with heart or cardiac disease. But I and a lot of others had no pain at all.
Superb treatment and talk sessions
At the moment, I am in cardiac rehabilitation with some wonderful nurses and physical education experts and they are caring and kind, sensible and thoughtful, and helpful to a degree that one would not have believed possible, at all times. Every session ends with a talk about how to exercise and continue improvements. Last week we talked about how we knew we were ill. Amazingly, not one of us in the session had had any pain. At all.
Chances of survival are high – but indications are not hard and fast
So for all those who don’t know how it might manifest itself, here are some ideas as to how I knew I was ill and what you might like to watch out for so that chances of survival are higher. Of course, there are lots of details and if I could spare those, I would. But nobody learns unless they remember the details and for many, the details are different. So I’ll try and be brief but also try to cover as many points as I can.
Out of breath
I was quite ill on the journey that we were taking on holiday. I just thought that I was excited. I needed a break. When we got to the station, I had to cross the line by the bridge. I was breathing a bit heavy going up the stairs and a bit out of breath when I put the suitcase up on the rack in the train. I had felt like this before, but only in the winter. It was like a raw feeling in the chest when breathing. It slowed me down a bit and passed off.
Difficulty in the cold weather
The first time I had felt like this was about 6 years ago and maybe longer. I was in town and shopping and I had forgotten something. I had to dash back in the cold to another shop up a slight hill. As I hurried as it was bitingly cold, I breathed a bit hard and the cold air stung my chest inside. I noticed it a few times in the cold. I noticed it at work. A raw sensation. Sometimes a bit like some wire wool in-between my shoulder blades. Of course, it was icy cold. I ignored it. That started six years ago.
A big shock
By the time I had my surgery, they reckoned that I had two days left.
Do something sooner, listen to your body
To have a heart problem does not mean that you have to wait until you cannot function, or that you have a terrible pain in the arm or anywhere else for that matter. The symptoms are devastating and surprisingly, never make you think of your heart. If you are over fifty years of age, they can come at any time. So please watch out. The Doctors always say that the best thing to do is get checked out, so please do it.
List of possible symptoms
Now here is a list but remember, it is not exhaustive and there may be other ways that you might be ill and other things not listed here:
An unusual feeling
Do you have a pain or ache or unusual feeling in the chest shoulder arm, back, abdomen or face? Is it an unexplained feeling? – you know, not toothache or a broken bone or a bad dinner last night but a feeling you cannot explain?
Things are taking longer than usual
Are you slowed down? Is your work annoying you and taking longer? Do you notice your heart rate pounding in stressful situations?
Is it taking longer for you to recover after strenuous activity? Are you struggling for breath sometimes? Is it difficult to take a good deep breath? Are your fingers not quite as agile as they were? Are your fingers a little shaky sometimes?
Sweating and temper
Are you sweating for no reason? Do you have night sweats? What about temper – is it harder to keep under control? Are you getting stressed easily and can feel your heart racing?
Is your pace slowing? Can you not do the things that you could a few years ago? Do you need to take a break to regain your breath after physical work?
Are you very cold? Are your feet cold even in warm weather? Are you getting feelings in warm weather that you usually associate with winter? (This is what happened to me).
Is there a history of heart disease, stroke or vascular disease in your family? Do you know your family history?
Numbness and tingling
Do limbs feel funny? Have you had a funny sensation in the lips or jaw? Is your pulse weak at the extremities?
It is not wrong to visit the Doctor
Well, if the answers are yes, then the chances are that you might like to make an appointment to get checked out for heart disease. Don’t put it off. Visit the Doctor and get checked out. If your siblings have any kind of heart problem, you go and get checked out too. Going to the Doctor is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of responsibility and concern not only for yourself but for those whom you love. And if “push” comes to “shove”, get an ambulance quickly.
Talk to others to gain experience
And men and women out there, remember that it is good to talk about this with others and compare notes. It is not sissy talk to learn what may be the things that make us feel ill. And illness is no respecter of persons. It takes no account of who you are or what your station is or if your are wealthy or not so wealthy.
Can be any age
In the cardiac ward where I was so superbly nursed back to health, was a building tycoon and a security guard, both twenty years younger than I.
A plea to everybody
Please don’t let happen to you what happened to Dave, poor soul; it’s not fair on him but take steps to notice your health and take care.
There aren’t enough hours in a day;
There aren’t enough days in a year;
There aren’t enough years in some lives.
Remembering Dave the Paint 1960-2014. RIP.