So it was November 2019 and I had been in business for three months. Back to reflexology, reiki and readings. I fell ill ~ something wasn’t right and I called a halt to everything. I cancelled the space I was renting and let everyone know I was taking time out.
I took to my bed with a cough and a fever, not something I have ever done before and I had never felt so weak. Mental health wasn’t great either with a bitter heaviness hovering about me that at that time I couldn’t shake off. What to do? I became a hermit from January through March. I did what I thought was necessary and nothing more. I actually isolated myself before ‘isolation’ became the everyday word.
What was wrong, what’s the matter with me? I’m stronger than this! Get a grip woman! It drove me to distraction. No energy, I didn’t want to see, speak or socialise with anyone. Those close special ones were absolutely amazing and still are.
Everything changed in April ~ three simple things I struggled to do. Opening my garage door, I thought I was having a panic attack. Going for a canal walk with my beautiful friend, discussing what a panic attack was, kept going though (being bloody minded). Then picking up tidily from the nursery and walking a short distance to my car with her. Then discussed fibromyalgia with her mum.
Two days later I discussed with Dad how I felt, so when I said I was going to walk to mother-in-laws (ten minutes up the road) he offered me a lift. I declined because I wanted to see if I could do it.
Once I was about quarter of the way I started to panic ~ something was telling me I wasn’t going to make it. In the usual way I started to have a strong word with myself, what’s the matter with you! You can do this, it’s not far! I was so pleased to bump into my niece and her beautiful young family, plus mum who I hadn’t seen for many years. It took my mind off of how I felt until I set off again.
This ten minute walk took me half an hour – husband Steve saw me approaching and said I looked like I was in discomfort. I said I think I am and was advised to go inside and sit down. Steve had already mentioned I should have contacted the surgery the day before.
On returning home I had to call 111 as it was good Friday ~ I was informed an ambulance was on its way. Being connected to the ECG machine there was nothing, the stickers were removed but one of the paramedics wasn’t happy. He asked if I had a back garden ~ I did. Stickers back on I was instructed to walk about twenty times up and down the garden as if I were late and a few more until I had the same sensation at the base of my throat I’d been experiencing before.
Back indoors and attached once more to the ECG machine the evidence was then clear, I had a blocked artery.
Not wanting to go in the ambulance, Steve took me to A&E after I signed the paperwork to say I’d self present. Once at The Royal United Hospital “Triage nurse, priority two to reception please” was called and then I was told off for not coming in the ambulance. Steve went on to wait in the car, it was now 17.30pm and he wasn’t allowed in.
Fifty eight years of age and never been admitted to a hospital before there was so much going on. Bloods taken, diabetic finger blood test, intravenous drip, blood pressure, how much pain on a scale of one to ten? Only allowed water to drink. Time flew, a young man came and said out loud “bay five to the ward” and was sent off again. I was in bay five!
I still had my wits about me enough to give one of the young nurses a reading – she was so pleased and said if I continued I’d have her in tears – when she came off duty she messaged a colleague to ask her to thank me again.
It was now 10.30pm “Donna, I have come to tell you that you’ve had a heart attack,” the young doctor said. I honestly thought he was joking. He followed on with not being sure if I hadn’t had one before? They can tell by the Troponin levels (regulatory proteins, C, I and T) normal levels range between 0 and 0.4ng/ml and mine were 224! So needless to say I wasn’t going home. I phoned Steve and asked him to tell his Mum and I spoke to Dad.
I finally landed in the ICU ward at 1am where I stayed for the duration. Chest x-ray and ultrasound gave enough evidence for revascularisation (stents to be fitted). The leaflet explaining the procedure stated it would be half an hour. The consultant said it would be more like an hour ~ two and a half hours later I had two stents fitted and was just a hair’s width from a bypass! When the consultant said that it could be likely I’d have a bypass before they took me in, I asked if I’d go home and come back? No you’re not going anywhere was his abrupt reply.
I can’t say the procedure was an experience to behold because I actually thought I was having a heart attack – learning later that the blood flow to the heart had to be stopped to fit the stents. Four times I asked for more sedatives but never felt any different ~ I felt everything, I even spoke to my maker stating if this was my time then so be it and made my peace.
I was so happy they kept my lunch and tea back at the ward as I was starving when I got back. Apparently not how one would feel following sedation.
Everything went so well I was released on Monday 5th April, loaded with countless medications.
I was tired and really not allowed what had happened to me to sink in. I did have a mini meltdown because I was still getting chest pains. A week later I received ‘The Heart Manual’, a six week programme for healthy living for people recovering from coronary angioplasty (stent). This explained how certain medications’ side effects could be causing these pains. Chatting to the rehabilitation nurse put a lot of my thoughts to rest. The doctor I spoke to also said the side effects far outweighed the benefits so was reluctant to make any changes.
The only evidence I had of what I had experienced was a five millimetre scar on my right wrist and many bruises from nurses trying to fit a second cannula!
The rehabilitation was about eating healthy and getting back on my feet. I had committed to walking a neighbour’s dog. He needed to lose weight and we both needed to get fit. My little pup pulled too much for me to take her at the start. Over six weeks I had built up to walking forty five to fifty minutes. You’d think I would be on top of the world but I wasn’t ~ my legs felt like I had lactic acid buildup in the muscles. I was constantly getting out of breath.
I was being told I was doing too much too soon ~ then I found out a dear friend had the same as me and I didn’t know. She had posted she was walking an hour now after twenty three weeks following a heart attack. That was it, I was pushing myself too hard.
I should be getting better not worse ~ July 13th I started to feel unwell again. I lost my appetite and had pain in my right side. I called the doctors and a nurse was booked to return my call. After speaking with him he wanted to see me ~ checking me over he felt it could be radiating from the gallbladder. Initially he was going to book me in for bloods and an ultrasound then decided to get me to do a pee sample and to do the bloods himself. I was prescribed strong painkillers and sent home. They didn’t work so after taking four I called the surgery and a doctor called me back at 19.00pm. He prescribed extra strong pain relief and I took them when Steve had picked them up. Within the hour I was sick ~ I stayed in bed which was where Steve found me when he got home from work the next day 15th July. I was hot and couldn’t get away from the pain, while Steve took a shower I called 111. Another ambulance ~ this time they took me to RUH.
Being admitted the second time I had no clue as to what was happening other than possible gallstones. Nil by mouth other than water with intravenous drip of strong antibiotics for the first two days. The usual regular blood tests, diabetic finger prick blood test, blood pressure etc. The consultant visited following a CT scan. It was confirmed that I had appendicitis and sepsis.
I had to have a recount – “hang on a minute ~ I can get sepsis or I have it?” “Oh you have it!” came the reply.
Apparently in Scandinavia there has been a five year study where the appendix if acute are not removed. Many have been treated as I was being currently treated with strong antibiotics. I was informed my appendix hadn’t grown where it should be and was behind my colon and pointing up toward my right hip. This was why it was difficult to diagnose and complicated to remove following a recent heart attack!
I asked what the likelihood of this recurring and it is likely, could I get sepsis again? Yes! How will I know? You will become very ill! The CRP (inflammatory markers that should be 10 or less) were 200 when I was admitted and four days later the consultant was happy that 105 now was going in the right direction and I could be discharged and go home with another three days of antibiotics to finish.
You may have seen the warning signs of sepsis on the side of ambulances but many may not know how life threatening this is.
Dad was extremely fortunate to be a survivor of this nasty illness, his organs had actually started to shut down when he was blue lighted to RUH.
My body has shouted at me twice ~ I have been left feeling drained, fatigued, my body doesn’t want to carry me, dizzy, tearful, frustrated and more. Life has stopped and I am now having to rethink my future slowly.
My sister moved to Wales four days after I was discharged from hospital and had a spare bed for Steve and I. It was a muddle at first but the best medicine once I understood there were hospitals in Wales too.
Please take time to read the online booklet about sepsis – knowledge is power. Many can mistake it for covid-19 as SEPSIS is a REACTION to an infection not the infection itself. I have reached out to the UKST (UK Sepsis Trust) Support Team – where they have qualified nurses who will talk over the phone and answer any questions – a real lifeline.
Apologies for not being me ~ even I currently don’t know who I am at the moment. A massive thank you to all who have been kind and supportive in word and deed. Much love to all of you. Especially to the one who worries and cares for me, my man Stevie B.