What a strange day yesterday was! I look at my body in the mirror and it’s covered in circular marks and red squares, the back of my left hand is bruised and has puncture wounds and I have a headache. Was I abducted by aliens? Not quite, but the sensations of yesterday were almost as weird.
I got up from the computer and went through to the kitchen at about 12.30pm. I took a roll, sliced it in half and put it in the toaster, then my stomach turned over. I was hit by the realisation that if I ate that, I’d be sick. Very quickly I felt light-headed and as if I was going to faint. I went to the dining room table and sat down on one of the chairs. The sensations are hard to describe, a roaring noise fills your ears and you lose your balance, the feeling in your stomach, like when the lift leaves you behind, just builds and builds and you feel really nauseous and on the verge of fainting. When it subsided a bit I put my fingers on my wrist and my pulse was going faster than I have ever felt it before, just racing. Not like running on a treadmill, when it registers 150 on the screen, faster than that.
At some point Mum got me from the chair to the sofa and got me a cold cloth. Then the symptoms came back with a rush. The last thing I remember was her at the window. She was calling over to our neighbour, Sally, who is an intensive care nurse at Waikato. Apparently Mum was telling me to lie down, I didn’t hear any of that. Sally arrived and, apparently, talked to me and rang an ambulance. I was semi-conscious, in fact I was in a very dark room somewhere in my head, cold and clammy and sweating and very pale, with hugely dilated pupils and I had no radial pulse that she could find. Is it weird that I kindda wish I’d seen myself like that?
I became aware of them just before the ambulance arrived and was able to talk to Neal when he walked in. We recognised each other. In July of last year the same thing happened to me when I was out and about in Cambridge and the ambulance was called. But by the time he was there I felt better and he took me to see my GP. It lasted about five minutes last time. This time it was 15-20 mins and counting and I was not so flash! He tried three times to put a needle into my hand to get a saline bag hooked up and that hurt more than anything, hence the bruising. He put a portable ECG machine on me and the readout was, in his words, ‘ugly.’ I know it’s always like that, but this time when he said hospital, I knew he meant it.
The ambulance ride consisted mainly of me lying on my back watching a saline bag swinging wildly on a hook above me and waiting for it to explode all over me. I had leads hooked up to the ECG patches, a lure in my hand and oxygen at my nose. I still didn’t have much vision and I felt like a bus had hit me when I wasn’t looking. I don’t know what my blood pressure reading was at the house but about an hour later at the hospital it was 100/55 and they were starting to be a little happier.
Waikato Hospital is amazing. The ED department is less than a year old, the equipment is state-of-the-art and the beds are so comfortable. The ratio is a nurse to every pod of four patients and they check you constantly. Mum and Sally waited for about half an hour before leaving Cambridge and by the time they arrived I was in a gown, had had bloods taken and was off for a chest Xray. The doctor was a lovely young English guy and he talked to me at length. After tests, reports and then another three hours hooked up so they could monitor me, he saw me again and we were home around 9pm.
This weird feeling is caused by the scarring on my heart. They thought my heart history was interesting, mainly because it went back to 1964 and I’m still here. One nurse thought that was so amazing he shook my hand! The arrhythmia causes my heart to race and my blood pressure to drop through the floor. Apparently they’ve decided it does no damage they can see to the heart, but if it goes on as long as it did yesterday, I need medical intervention to get the blood pressure up and the heart settled.
If it becomes frequent I might need a pacemaker and there is nothing I can do to influence the intensity or the frequency. I remember Claire, my brilliant Auckland cardiologist, telling me last November that she has a patient who used to run marathons and now he is severely debilitated by these attacks. Like me, he had open heart surgery as a child and has survived a long time.
So that was my Sunday afternoon. The paramedics were great and the hospital staff were just amazing. So was Sally and so was Mum….not an alien in sight.