That’s what I said to myself as I rocked back and forth with the most intense and scary pain I have ever felt: “I’m too young to have a heart attack!” Evidently not!
It was Sunday morning on the 21st September 2014. I was 45 years old and I was looking forward to going back to bed for a super peaceful power nap. The night before had been boozy; my sister in law was visiting from Cologne and had taken the opportunity to meet up with some old friends of hers. Once again I had drunk too much, I had smoked too much, I had eaten too much!
In the morning, I felt a bit rough but nothing too bad; more tired really. I put this down to not being as young as I once was and managed to negotiate some precious quiet time whilst my wife, my son and the rest of the crazy crew descended on the south coast to embrace the heady heights of the Brighton Wheel.
By way of background, I was a serious smoker who started when I was about 13…and this may be hard for many to understand, but it sort of made sense to me; smoking filled a hole that I didn’t quite know I had.
I was also a bit of a boozer. I’ve always loved a good party, but also was constantly sneaking off for ‘a quick pint’ down whichever pub was nearest.
And I do so love my food. For many years I was a skinny dude, but I settled down and started earning a decent living; as well as filling my fridge I would go through phases of stuffing myself with various junk food and take away.
I was working as an IT Contractor in London, with the daily ‘elbows at 45 degrees’ commute. IT Contracting can be great money, but the downside is that it is hugely competitive. It’s hard to drop the stress before you get home. By all means call me weak, but very often several pints and a bag full of junk food stood between me and the beyond packed train home. Quite often I would stock up for the journey as well, a particular favourite being the little cans of Gin & Tonic.
Much To Look Forward To
Of course, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. My wife was 7 months pregnant with our beautiful daughter. Our beautiful son had just turned 5 and was a joy to be with. Dad was back home after another long fight with cancer. I was crawling up the contractors slippery pole and getting better day rates. So in many respects it was all good.
What Happened Next
After everyone left that Sunday morning, I sat watching TV for 10 minutes. Then I started to feel a bit funny, like I had indigestion. I got up thinking I would go upstairs for my nap and it was then that the pain hit me. I had a tightening of my chest and in the middle of my back. And my left arm was tingling.
I remember sitting back down and gently rocking back and forth as this eased the pain a little. Sometimes I felt like I needed to let loose a massive burp. Quite often I felt like I needed to poo and several times I sat on the toilet rocking. At one point I was sick and I even started sobbing. I know now that these are all classic symptoms of a heart attack.
Very stupidly I didn’t ring for an ambulance, I didn’t ring my wife. I was in denial and chose not to read the signals. After about an hour the pain subsided a little and I went to have a lie down, drifting in and out of a fitful sleep. When my wife & family returned around lunch time I was back downstairs, the pain had significantly reduced but I felt very dazed and out of breath.
Still In Denial
My wife of course told me to get to the hospital. But I still didn’t want to believe that anything serious had happened. I hate hospitals and I thought I would be sitting around for ages. We were due to take my sister in law to the airport so I insisted on taking a bath and told my wife that we would go to A&E after that. Funny how I wanted to smell good and be dressed nicely.
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When we got to A&E I told the reception that I had had chest pain and a tingly arm. I had barely sat down when a senior nurse called me into a side room and asked me some questions. Within minutes I was taken through to the Majors and given a bed.
Too Young to Have a Heart Attack?
So I guess I wasn’t too young to have a heart attack after all. Turns out I had a Non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), primarily as a result of my Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery being occluded proximally. I left hospital 3 days later having undergone angioplasty that left 2 stents in my arteries.
More details in my next post…but for now I will finish with an interesting fact courtesy of the British Heart Foundation (BHF CVD Statistics Factsheet – UK): In the UK there are 188,000 hospital visits each year due to heart attacks: that’s one every three minutes.