Please take a moment to read this as some of this information might just save your life (or someone elses) one day!!!
Disclaimer – we are not medically trained so this is just an account from the patient’s point of view.
Did you know it’s possible to have a heart attack without feeling ill?
Neither did I. My heart attack was very strange, and I want to share the story because I so nearly DIDN’T go to the doctor!
Yes, I had a pain in the middle of my chest – but I thought it was in my gullet, maybe a symptom of acid reflux or a bit of heartburn – although I’d not had either before. But it came and went for several days – maybe a week. I took some indigestion remedy, maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t.
Then on Friday it came and it didn’t go away. So….. I went shopping, as you do, and bought some Gaviscon. At home I looked at the Gaviscon and thought no, this is silly, I can’t keep on taking random stuff in the hope that it will help.
So I googled chest pain, found an NHS site with a questionnaire which I completed – it said “DIAL 999” – and I thought, that’s ridiculous! So I phoned the surgery to see if they could fit me in, went to see my GP, and it was clear that my blood pressure was ridiculously high and my pulse was racing so he sent me straight to the assessment ward at Poole Hospital. I still didn’t really believe it could be a heart attack!
At Poole hospital they did an ECG and took blood, and told me I’d be seen by the doctor when the blood tests were back. We were waiting so long, and everyone else had been moved to a ward or gone home, I asked if I’d been forgotten! The nurse explained that the most serious cases had to be dealt with first – fair enough, I understand that. But if I wasn’t serious, maybe I should go home and come back for the results tomorrow? (Yes, seriously, Mike and I discussed that as an option!)
The nurse went to get a more senior nurse who said in very strong terms that I really SHOULD NOT go home as the results showed that I really needed to be in hospital! I think that she told me more than she was supposed to but she probably saved my life or at least saved me from a serious collapse! I still didn’t feel ill !
The moral of this story is – if you have unexplained, persistent symptoms, don’t mess about! Call 999 – paramedics can check you out – they won’t take you to hospital if you don’t need to go, so it’s NOT a waste of peoples’ time!
And do this questionnaire, and if it says DIAL 999 – JUST DO IT!
There’s some more info here about heart attack symptoms in women – which can differ greatly from those in men, and be more difficult to diagnose, although men too can have very few symptoms – one friend tells me he just had a pain in his jaw!
What NOT to Do if you feel heart attack symptoms:
- Don’t delay getting help – women generally wait longer than men before calling 999. Even if you think your symptoms aren’t that bad or will pass, the stakes are too high.
- Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. You need an ambulance. If you drive, you could have an accident on the way and possibly hurt yourself or someone else.
- Don’t have a friend or relative drive you either. You may not get there fast enough, and again, you could have an accident because they are worrying about you.
- Don’t dismiss what you feel – don’t worry about feeling silly if you’re wrong, you have to get it checked right away. The BEST thing to do is call 999 because the paramedics will check you over and if it’s not serious, they won’t drag you off to A&E unnecessarily!
What happened next?
I was moved to the Cardiac Care Unit during that night – it’s hard to explain what a wonderful place that is! It’s a small 8 bed unit with plenty of staff who answer bells immediately, they make sure you know who they are and what’s happening, they were all really lovely and I can’t thank them enough!
The standard treatment for a heart attack is 48 hours total bed rest and I was wired up to a monitor/ECG machine the whole time. They gave me drugs to reduce my blood pressure and slow my pulse, and told me that once stabilised I would be transferred to the Cardiac Intervention Unit at Bournemouth for an angiogram and possible fitting of a stent in the narrowed cardiac artery.
By Monday morning I was allowed out of bed to go to the loo etc – still wired up, but I could unplug myself! Then it was all go as I was transferred to Bournemouth and had the angiogram and a stent fitted that afternoon – it’s very odd having someone open up your artery while you lie there wide awake! But strangely it wasn’t in the least scary, probably because they were clearly a great team who all knew exactly what they were doing. My GP told me later that Bournemouth is one of the top places in the country for that sort of procedure and I can well believe it. As I was last on the list and it was evening by then, I was kept in overnight and went home the next day.
Friday – heart attack. Monday – angioplasty. Tuesday – home! Feeling, as you can imagine, more than a little shell-shocked, it’s taken me a while to get my head round it all.
I have to go back at the end of the month for another angiogram as there were a couple of other places the consultant wanted to look at, which may or may not need stents, but that will be as a day patient, after that I have to go to the Cardiac Rehab unit in Poole to help me get back to full health. I don’t think I’ll ever complain about the NHS again!
AND – don’t you dare edit this bit out Rose! My daughters have been absolutely wonderful! Rose did so much running around to and from the hospitals and getting stuff I needed so I didn’t have to worry about a thing, and Lucy drove all the way down from Southport to be here when I came home and do cooking and housework to make sure I didn’t do too much – thanks a million times girls, love you lots!