Owner of a Broken (but not Lonely) Heart

heart

When last we saw our ruggedly deluded protagonist he was in the Coronary Care Unit of Hawke’s Bay Hospital having been defibrillated after having Ventricle Tachycardia for over 12 hours.

The day after I was admitted to hospital, the cardiologist visited to check up on me and let me know what was going on.

The news was good and bad.

Good in that I was alive and very fortunate to still be here after such a long cardiac event.

Bad in that I would be in hospital for about a week or so to ensure the VT didn’t make a reappearance, and if it did, I would be in the right place for immediate treatment (so technically “good”).

I would likely end up being fitted with a mini pacemaker-like device called an ICD (“Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator”) that would shock my heart back into line if it started miss-firing again.

So that was kind of bad (operation, pain, more recovery), but also good in that I would then have new awesome cyborg parts!

But more shockingly to me, I would not be allowed to drive for six months.

SIX MONTHS!!

I love my independence and my work is a 15 minute drive away, with un-flattering hours, so not being able to drive anywhere for half a year was a bit of a blow to say the least.

Hell, not being able to bugger off out of the ward and go home to my wife and daughter for a week was a big enough blow.

The driving ban was mainly precautionary. If I was driving and had another VT event I could blackout / die at the wheel, crash and cause untold carnage – hardly the sort of picture NZ’s health system would like to paint – so while crippling it was understandable.

I was scheduled to have various tests over the following days, so the main thing I had ahead of me was lots of waiting.

In Coronary Care “Waiting” is practically a competitive sport, because everyone is doing it.

But the gold medal is for Humility and everyone in the ward deserves a medal for that, and not in a wishy-washy NCEA, “Everyone gets a prize” way.

In Coronary Care the level of humility is a wonderful thing.

There are people needing stents to open blocked arteries, new heart valves, pacemakers, heck, even multiple bypasses – medical conditions that so little as 20-30 years ago were still largely lethal.

But rather than focusing on their own problems, the constant theme and saying amongst patients is: “There’s someone out there worse off than me”.

That is quite something.

The other thing that being in this situation opened my eyes to is the kindness of others – There’s a lot of help, love and chocolate out there.

My wife and daughter visit regularly, of course, which is a necessity for my sanity, but also bitter-sweet because then they have to go again and I’m once again alone.

I was only in the ward for a day before my work colleagues sent me a gift basket full of goodies – fruit, sweets and a crossword book to fill in time with.

One of my wonderful nurses sensed I was getting cabin fever and offered to escort me down to the cafeteria while she got some lunch. It was only a short trip, but just being able to re-enter the “big, wide world” for a bit was gloriously refreshing.

My wonderful Facebook and Twitter friends – many of whom I have only met 140 characters at a time were offering their good wishes, help and more food (I like where this is heading!).

Attitude and positive vibes are a large part of being in a situation such as mine, so these well-wishers have certainly been a big, positive part of the process.

And I would need it, because there was more news on the horizon and it wasn’t too good.

During one of my scans they noticed two things:

1/ My heart was a bit bigger than usual – I wasn’t too surprised by this, because I’m 6’8” tall, so a slightly larger heart made sense in that there was more body to pump blood around

But, more concerning:

2/ A growth had been picked up on or near my heart – they couldn’t quite tell its proximity, but it was obviously of concern. This could explain an increase the size of the heart and the dysrhythmia, from the heart being irritated.

I couldn’t feel anything different – in fact I felt (and still feel) fine, which added to a general sense of detachment in not knowing it was there at all – The tachycardia might have been a good thing after all.

The growth is unlike anything my cardiologist has seen before which, believe it or not, I take as a good thing, because it means its not something he knows is immediately bad.

I was the headline act in HB Hospital’s weekly teleconference with their Wellington coronary specialists, who are equally intrigued – at this rate I might be the Mr April centrefold in the next edition of The Lancet!

But mainly I just hope I survive.

So I’m on a bit of a roller-coaster at the moment – Ups and down, highs and lows and even the odd corkscrew.

I don’t know what to expect, other than next week I will be flown down to Wellington Hospital by Air Ambulance (My own private plane, Woo-hoo!) undergo more tests, a biopsy and.. who knows?

Sometimes in quiet, dark moments the bad things and possibilities creep in. Other times I just miss my family, or being able to simply get out into the big wide world that I can see through the window next to my hospital bed.

But I’m keeping positive as much as I can.

There are others out there worse off than I am.

1 thought on “Owner of a Broken (but not Lonely) Heart

  1. Wow Andrew. What an eventful week it’s been! And a few developments since I saw you on Tuesday.
    Hoping they get this heart thing all sussed out ASAP as your far to young to be spending time in the CCU, as I’m sure you noticed!
    All the best matey. Keep that chin up.

    P.s my dad eventually made it to Wellington for a couple of stents and good old clean out of clots etc so on the road to recovery now. Thankful for free and good medical care we have in NZ!

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