Wednesday, 15 October 2008

AFFAIRS OF THE HEART

There's an old saying (which, like all those Old Sayings, is trite but true): “It isn't what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart.”

Which - in unromantic terms - is what I've been worrying about for the past eighteen months since a hospital test suggested that I had something in my heart that oughtn't to be there - to wit, one or more malfunctioning arteries.

Finding out what's going on in a person's heart is far easier and more prosaic than the poets ever imagined: you undergo a coronary catheterization (it's OK, you don't have to click on that link!) which provides photographic evidence of what, if anything, is not tick-tocking properly within your ticker.

After several postponements (due to infections resulting from the drugs I take for arthritis) and one painful aborted attempt when they couldn't insert the catheter through which to pass the camera, yesterday was the designated date for the next attempt.

Then, over then weekend, it looked as it would once again have to be postponed when I started having a serious plumbing malfunction which led to my spending most of Monday in A & E fully expecting to have a rather different kind of catherterization. Despite the discomfort I was in, I was secretly comforted by the thought that, at least, I wouldn't have to go through the next day's cardiac test.

But medication was provided and I very quickly started recovering and was deemed well enough to go back to the same hospital the following day for my heart to be investigated. So, screwing the courage to the sticking place - I was, I freely admit, totally terrified - I turned up at the Cardiac Catherterization Unit at King's College Hospital prepared (in my most Eeyore-ish state of mind) to find out the Worst...

Even before I arrived at my bed, I passed a door bearing a sign that said it all...


Several anxious hours later, I was lying on my back with a mini-camera crawling through my chest grabbing snaps of my heart that were being televised on a screen above my head. Frankly, I'd have sooner been watching re-runs of the worst-ever TV shows of the 20th Century...

Anyway, with the aid of wonderful sedatives (I wanted to bring a supply home for recreational use, but they weren't having it!) and a fabulous team who talked me through the whole experience rather in the way that those cool, calm and confident Air Traffic Controllers used to talk down failing aircraft in '50s 'B' movies, I --- they, we --- got through it and the Good News - which was like someone vanishing that sword of Damocles that had been hanging over me since Spring 2007 - was that my heart was FINE!

All wasn't entirely plain-sailing: the artery in my groin being deep and difficult to get into - I always knew I had depth! - led to a lot of rather painful prodding and poking. Then, afterwards, the self-dissolving plug which is used to stopper-up the entry point refused to go into the puncture hole which resulted in the doctor having to apply a great deal of pressure for rather a long time to stop the bleeding. By far the worst bit was having to lie perfectly still for four hours while all the other patients in the ward were merrily toddling off home.

But that was a small price to pay for long-needed peace of mind. David fed me chicken mayo sandwiches and sips of tea through straw and when I was finally able to totter round the ward to see if I sprang a leak (thankfully, I didn't) gave me a firm arm to lean on - although, to tell the truth, I'd been leaning on him quite heavily, one way and another, for the past month or more...

Of course, I still have the arthritis and the hernia and the asthma and several other faulty fittings, but the HEART is, as I say, fine! Fine! Nice word, that! I like having a fine heart!

Like undertakers, doctors have a very particular sense of humour. Here's a sample from a note-board in my ward. It used to be said that the way to man's heart was through his stomach, but, apparently, not so...


Images: 'Heart' by Heather Garland; 'Door' and 'Noteboard' by David Weeks

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian

So pleased you got the all clear for your heart.

Elaine

LisaH said...

Terrific news, Brian and glad that my prediction was correct - and that your body didn't manage, through fear, to help you dodge the procedure yet again.
As to the ward note board, whilst the first observation is very astute, I think the second one is rather off the mark for many of us women.

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks ELAINE and LISAH! :-)

As for the note board, I'm surprised all those women doctors and nurses allowed the perpetrator to get away with a such a sexist slogan! But then, maybe they didn't; maybe he was that patient I saw plastered from heard to toe with all his limbs in traction!! ;-)

Boll Weavil said...

It's good that your well and that the ever-faithful DW was on hand, not only to minister to you, but to think about the need for illustrations for your blog also !

Brian Sibley said...

BOLL - Obviously, come what may, the Blog must get through!

Good Dog said...

Glad to hear the pump is pumping okay.

Eudora said...

Is wonderful, a strong heart of course, I always knew that.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that your heart at least is ticking along nicely, but I am worried about the chicken mayo sandwiches being fed through a straw!
My heart has always ticked along very spendidly, thank you - it's my "affairs" of the heart that are a complete disaster zone! Still, you can't have it all can you!

Suzanne said...

I've done it again - I really ought to wait until I've woken up before posting comments!
Suzanne

Brian Sibley said...

GOOD DOG and EUDORA - Thanks for the pump appreciation. Your comment, Eudora, about a 'strong' heart, suddenly reminded me of the name of a character in the second part of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress - Mr GREAT-HEART. To be honest he was a bit pompous and preachy, but his heart - as they say - was in the right place. Just glad mine is, too!

ANONYMOUS / SUZANNE - Maybe with those intimate revelations as 'Anonymous' you should have stuck with anonymity! I take it then that there were no backstage romances while the play was on?

I'll resist correcting the "chicken mayo sandwiches... through a straw" line as it would totally ruin your comment!!

Suzanne said...

No, Brian, no back-stage romances
- just a lot of giggling... & some observing by me of how stage fright affects people differently & how they deal with it - intriguing!
Oh and not to worry - my love life - or lack of - is no great secret!

Brian Sibley said...

Well, maybe your next role will be romantic! :-)

LisaH said...

What's a love life - my memory fails me?

luinfalathiel said...

Congratulations on your all-clear! Now you can get out there and USE that heart! USE IT, SOLDIER! :D

Brian Sibley said...

(Saluting) Yes, Ma'am!!!

Sheila said...

Well done, Brian - really good news.

I have to agree with Lisah's comment about the notice board - very much off the mark!

As is one of the weekday missal readings for today (16th October is the feast of St Hedwig - I'm sure you knew that!). The Old Testament reading is from Ecclesiasticus 26 and includes the line: "A silent wife is a gift from the Lord". Really? I'm sure some of us wives would have a few words to say about that!!

Brian Sibley said...

SHEILA - "A silent wife is a gift from the Lord"? Hmm... Personally, I think you'll just have to register a complaint with the Former Lady Margaret Hall! (In-joke. Sorry, everyone!)

Boris Hiestand said...

glad to hear you've got a good heart.
I knew it already though.
Does this mean you have the all clear to go and get lots of alcoholic drinks and fatty foods with me? best wishes

Laurie Mann said...

Good news! Hope all stays well.

Brian Sibley said...

BORIS - Yep! Double Beef Burger with Extra Cheese and a Large Fries should just about hit the spot!

LAURIE - Yes, thanks. Like the Tin Man in Oz, I'll have to keep a oil-can handy...

Suzy said...

Oh - fantastic news Brian. I am so glad everything turned out well with your heart.
Fondest love from us in Greece
xxxx

Brian Sibley said...

Actually, I'm ready for a bit of Greek sun again -- pity I've got to wait another 11 months!!!

Chris said...

All that drama and angst for a clean bill of health. Seems like there must be an easier way. Glad you're ok

Bela said...

Sorry this is so late. So glad you're all right. :-)

Carl V. said...

Glad to hear the good news and hope you continue in excellent health for the longest of long times.