Here’s the thing. I’ve been feeling crocked for over 6 months. I visited my doctor back in February for problems I’d first noticed in December last year. He and I suspected that they could be caused by one of several factors – peri-menopause, a low iron count or thyroid trouble. All of which can cause increases in heart rhythm, extreme tiredness etc. All my bloods came back negative. My 24 hour ECG came back negative. I knew it would – my symptoms are completely intermittent and I’d been fine during the test. The following weekend was a completely different tale – waking at 3am with my heart racing so hard I thought it would burst.
Still, I’d been told that – on the surface – I was fine. Then I caught a viral chest infection. I’m not good with viruses, they completely flatline me. This one sparked off an asthma attack. So far, so normal. I did exactly what I’ve been taught to do and increased my normal meds and added salbutamol.
I took one puff on the salbutamol inhaler for the first time in about a year. And I felt it just whack me sideways. I couldn’t stand up for 30 minutes. My head was in space and my chest was like a jackhammer. I’ve never had a reaction to it this strong. I’ve been taking a lot of allergies meds and all I can assume was that my system was quite overwhelmed. If you read the small print on all of the proscribed meds I take they can all have the same effect on your heart rate and rhythm. To speed it up. I routinely have a resting heart rate of 100 bpm. I have to explain that it is not due to fear at every medical appointment I have, that it is perfectly normal.
My asthma improved, but the rest of me didn’t. Then one Thursday I decided to have a couple of glasses of wine for the first time since becoming poorly. Woke up at 4am thinking the world was caving in. Such pain in my chest, my poor heart just flying out of it’s cavity. I also had been having right eye visual disturbances for a few days. A fingernail of brilliant light in my vision, even when my eyes were shut.
Any sensible person would have sought medical attention. I didn’t, and I kick myself. Instead I crawled about until the following Monday having sudden onsets of palpitations intermittently. At that stage I crawled to my GP. Then found myself in the local emergency hospital for 2 days of tests.
All I can say at this stage is the NHS was brilliant. The staff at the hospital were outstanding – my care second to none. I was first treated at the eye clinic where they concluded – along with my GP – that there was no structural issues with my eyes and the likely cause was a disruption to the blood supply to them due to sudden drops in blood pressure (also causing the palpitations). My heart readings are perfectly normal, even factoring in my very gentle heart murmur. The A&E doctor, trainee doctor, the nurses – all wonderful, all kind and all good humoured. I’ve never been complimented on my underwear during an ECG before, but she had to halt the test because I couldn’t stop laughing.
I had a CT brain scan. This was strangely awesome – like going into the Star Gate. There is concern that I am having mini strokes that are disrupting the blood supply to the brain. When you are sat in a cubicle and someone tells you at the age of 44 that you may be having strokes it’s bloody terrifying. The good news is that the initial results show no damage and they are reasonably sure that I am not having TIAs. Frankly, the idea that I am is terrifying.
I’ve been referred to the TIA clinic initially for a full case review. At this stage it’s likely I’ll be referred to cardiology as it could potentially be atrial fibrillation. With specific causes including my medication, my underlying asthma and alcohol. This also increases the risk of having a stroke.
My poor Husband Underfoot was a star. He took leave from work, came sat at my side, tied my splendidly oversized hospital gown up so I didn’t moon at the world.
Well, this is where Bat Fit comes in. I have no diagnosis as yet, but I am in the system. In the interim, I have to take some responsibility for myself. Out goes alcohol – any alcohol. I’m comparing one glass of wine to a game of Russian Roulette with my brain. It just isn’t worth it. My brain makes me who I am. Drinking is an act of deliberate self harm. I won’t say it’s easy to go cold turkey – it isn’t. HU and I shared 3 bottles of wine a week, or about 15 UK units. I’ve been reprimanded for going routinely over my weekly limits – and as a binge drinker which puts even more pressure on my cardiovascular system.
It’s quite difficult to get this through to other people in my peer group. They find it incomprehensible that I won’t actually have one drink. Like, a world of no. My desire for intoxication is far outweighed by my desire to have a healthy brain.
I am also 7-10 pounds overweight, at 139 pounds. I’ve put on that 7 in the past year. It’s time to give it back. Ideally they’d like me to be about 125 pounds for my height – we shall see! So, no alcohol, no ice cream, no crisps, and a limited amount of cheese and chocolate. I am still allowed the odd piece of cake. Let’s not take away all the joy!
Tomorrow I get back in the swimming pool. I’m starting to feel a little better but I’ve cancelled several nights out. I also have a burst blood vessel in one eye that’s making me look frankly horrific. Oh, and bruises up both arms and hands from where 2 doctors failed to get blood from me until they resorted to a baby needle!
So I’m a bit shock up. And still waiting for a formal diagnosis. But I’m being very well taken care of, both at home and at the hospital. My GP has been outstanding – 3 visits in 3 days. Now I just need to get my mind back to a happy, productive place – this post is part of that process. This is a warning shot. Time to listen.