Not for the Faint of Heart


It’s been a while since I’ve had time to sit down and do some writing, but now I find I have a fair bit of spare time and not a lot to do, because I’m in the Coronary Care Unit of Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

Last Saturday I was playing cricket (well, when I say “playing” I mean I fielded for 30 overs and umpired for another 30 – total number of times I physically exerted myself = <5). We lost by one run, but rather than being stressed or nervous I was a bit bored and disappointed that I didn’t get to bat. It was very hot and I had been out in the sun all game, so when I felt a bit crap sitting down in the dressing rooms after the game and noticed my pulse was going a bit fast I thought I just had heat stroke. I went home, had dinner, went to the clubrooms for our club’s regular after-match speeches and came home. Toddler in Frame had a broken night, so I was up and down a few times to give my wife a break and still felt ill, but managed to have some sleep. On Sunday morning I was feeling a little better, but not a lot, so went to the medical centre, where the nurses quite quickly had me on a bed, hooked up to monitors and soon afterwards two St John’s Ambulance staff arrived and I was taken to the Emergency Department of Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

Not a good sign.

My heart was indeed racing – going at around 200 beats per minute – my usual rate being closer to 80-90bpm.

I was suffering from something called “Ventricular Tachycardia” and had been, it seems, for over 12 hours – There didn’t seem to be a member of the medial fraternity who wasn’t reasonably impressed by this over the next few days. They kept saying it must be my “youth and fitness” that helped me stand it for so long.

I have no idea what those two words mean.

If I had been in one of those whiz-bang medical-soap-drama TV shows they would have been running around, yelling I was in “V-Tach” (in America) or said I was in “VT” (everywhere else) getting “Crash carts” ready and “paddles charged”.

As we are in New Zealand, things, while still very professional and serious, felt a bit more laid back (this could have just been the drugs, of course). I was put into an ED bed, hooked up to even more wires and lines and given drugs to try and slow my heart rate but told, if that didn’t work, they would more than likely sedate me and shock, or “Defibrillate” (yup, that thing they do with the paddles – “CLEAR!” to people whose hearts had stopped) – my heart back into its regular scheduled programme.

I got the shock, but sans sedative.

Because after around 14 hours of VT my body decided it had had enough of this medical marathon and my blood pressure dropped, I suddenly felt even crapper (No bright light, or long tunnel, btw, just REALLY dizzy and sick)

The ED staff sprang into action and Renee, the head ED doctor said “Ok, Andrew, we’re going to shock you now”, I had just enough time to grunt a “Huh? / Ok” and someone hit me in the chest with an ethereal, electrified baseball bat.

For the record (and not solely for theatrical effect) I did lift off the bed with a loud grunt.

What passes for “normality” in the Emergency Department then resumed, my heart rate returning to a more regular rate and things quietening down.

A guy in the next cubicle came in with the same thing as I had, but had the time and benefit of sedation before he was zapped and had no recollection of it.

After some blood tests and a chest X-ray I was eventually moved to the Coronary Care Unit of the hospital for overnight observation, hoping / expecting to be released the next day.

Things never quite seem to work out that easily in real life.

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