I survived my heart attack, but life under doctor’s orders may be the death of me!
Life changes in an instant. Last month I had a cardiac arrest in a Morrisons car park. Defibrillator deployed. Air ambulance to hospital. Huge drama. Touch and go.
Somebody said it wouldn’t have been so bad had I collapsed in a Waitrose car park. People can be such snobs.
Now discharged, I must avoid sex for two weeks, according to the sheet of dos and don’ts I was handed as I left hospital — and even then, ‘the general guideline is that sexual activity needs no more effort than when climbing a flight of stairs’.
But what if I lived in a bungalow? And what if I don’t have a partner or a willing partner? More things to worry about.
Following a heart attack (‘a frightening experience’ — the author of the sheet is not wrong there), the hospital sends the patient home with loads of leaflets, booklets, screeds of advice, folder after folder of bumf. It’s like being back at school and given homework, with an inbuilt warning of detention.
Last month I had a cardiac arrest in a Morrisons car park. Now I must avoid sex for two weeks, according to the sheet of dos and don’ts I was handed as I left hospital, writes Roger Lewis (File image)
Recovery and coming to terms with cardiovascular disease can take two months minimum, hospital staff warned
Recovery and coming to terms with cardiovascular disease can take two months minimum, hospital staff warned. I confidently predict that it will take far longer for me to get used to my new lifestyle, as set out by the law of leaflet (if, indeed, ever at all). It might even prove to be the death of me.
Week-one activities are to be no more onerous than listening to music, watching the telly, making cups of tea, ‘laying the table and completing up to one hour of non-stressful paperwork’.
That’s somewhat specific — and also (to be truthful) the extent of my physical exertions at the best of times, when one of my supreme joys is to watch old films starring Frankie Howerd (‘Slap my nelly!’) and Kenneth More (‘Try to do as much as you can in the time that you have’) in the afternoon.
Dynamic duos: Nutrients that work best when consumed together
This week: Probiotics and prebiotics
‘Eating probiotic-rich foods — which includes fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso and yoghurt — can boost the number of ‘healthy’ bacteria in your gut,’ says dietitian Orli Rhodes.
‘A healthy gut microbiome [colony of microbes in your digestive system] plays a key role in everything from immunity to obesity.’
But to flourish, the good bacteria need prebiotics, fibre-rich compounds that feed and nurture them. Prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, apples, onions, garlic, oats and flaxseed.
‘A meal with both prebiotic and probiotic foods will encourage a healthy gut microbiome and seems to boost the absorption of nutrients such as B vitamins,’ says Orli Rhodes.
Try: Overnight oats with kefir (pour plain kefir over oats and put in the fridge; in the morning add fruit, nuts and seeds).
Week Two brings the suggested ‘sexual activity,’ to which can be added ten-minute walks on the flat and trimming a hedge. By Week Three ‘you can include gentle hills’ in the perambulations, like a romantic poet wandering lonely as a cloud. It is also permissible to take up snooker or darts.
Come Week Six I can wash the car and ‘start short sessions at a driving range at the golf club’. I don’t know who drew up these rules, but clearly heart-attack victims are envisioned as sex maniacs who appreciate gardening and sauntering on the putting green.
I appreciate the necessity of taking exercise — to stimulate the arteries — but I really can’t see myself, as commanded, at the end of two months, cycling, swimming, mowing, digging or ‘moving heavy bags of compost’.
The thought of all that will give me another heart attack.
Not that I much feel like venturing outdoors, but I can’t go abroad or pack and carry a suitcase until after Week Eight: ‘You must discuss your suitability to travel with your GP’, the leaflet tells me.
Readers may be more fortunate, but I have never clapped eyes on my GP, not since childhood in the last century when they drove a Riley and made house calls.
Do general practitioners, I wonder, still exist, outside the mind of God?
When I tried to reach mine, after two hours holding on the phone, I was still only number 18 in the queue.
Everything in my experience is handled (perfectly competently) by cardiac rehabilitation specialist nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, diabetic nurse specialists (I also have type 2 diabetes), porters, maintenance staff and ward clerks.
Occupational therapists, for example, were the ones who wheeled in my commode, which, like NHS wheelchairs, unerringly crashed into walls.
What a business. My ribs crushed by CPR — performed by a passer-by who thankfully knew what they were doing — I have been in a lot of pain, and the opioids I have been prescribed unfortunately cause constipation.
My insides are cement. I am under orders not to strain, as my heart might burst. I still feel like a pregnant walrus.
In addition to the dossiers of advice, as bewildering as they are helpful, I left hospital with shopping bags full of medicines, blood thinners, blood clotters, blood pressure pills, syringes and sprays.
Dapagliflozin, atorvastatin, aspirin, prasugrel, bisoprolol, ramipril, thiamine and glyceryl trinitrate — all of which sound like characters in Game Of Thrones.
I have to carry glyceryl trinitrate and, in emergencies, squirt it under my tongue, to open up the blood vessels and relieve chest pain.
The effect of the powerful new tablets (I take 12 a day as well as four insulin injections) is that my liver is overloaded, blood tests show. It would be worse should I be breastfeeding which, as luck would have it, I am not.
Come Week Six I can wash the car and ‘start short sessions at a driving range at the golf club’, writes Roger Lewis (pictured)
‘The general guideline is that sexual activity needs no more effort than when climbing a flight of stairs’. But what if I lived in a bungalow? And what if I don’t have a partner or a willing partner? (File image)
But on top of everything else my gums have swollen and throb horribly. They are also receding. The Finnish dentist I saw recently poked and prodded and took X-rays, and on top of everything else I have gum disease. I therefore need to take the antibiotic amoxicillin for the next five days. Frankly, I am a wreck.
I think this is the view of the health professionals I have encountered, too.
When, under interrogation after my discharge, I told the cardiac rehabilitation nurse (down the phone — Covid is still the excuse for never meeting patients in the flesh) I also drank a few glasses of red wine each evening, you’d think I was in the Oliver Reed or F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald class of dipsomania, the alarm this has caused.
I have even had to start drinking decaf coffee, which all my life I’d assumed was pretentious and faddish. Actual caffeine interferes with the heart, I am told. So, farewell espresso — farewell anything nice.
Examining the literature, which is illustrated by cheerful-looking people waving wooden spoons, healthcare professionals laying down the law would more or less prefer us to be teetotal vegans.
I am not permitted to consume or so much as glance at garlic bread, cakes, pies, shortbread, crisps, Scotch eggs, sausages, lamb, cheese, butter, chocolate, salt or orange squash.
This leaves, as my sole approved grocery list, breadsticks, lentils, nuts and lemon juice and, in so far as I can tell, absolutely nothing else. Ever again. Or I will die.
In any case, I am the perfect weight for a person who is 6ft 6in. Unfortunately, I am 5ft 6in — tall for a Welshman, but I live in Hastings.
So, the BMI needs watching, which is another reason I didn’t mind being in hospital, as I didn’t have to worry about anything. Even what I ate became part of the machine — literally so, plugged in to drips and screens with wires and pipes. Everything is done for you. I loved having a nurse to put on my socks.
As the NHS philosophy is that patients fare better in their own surroundings, however, I was booted out of the ward after three days and am now at home, covered with bruises from the endless injections.
I am glad I am in the system to be monitored, and a nice nurse phones now and again. But I feel uncharacteristically vulnerable. I went out as far as the Post Office. My legs were wobbly and I felt a panic attack was coming on.
Friends have rallied round. Rachel Johnson asked if I’d like her to call in and place a pillow over my head.
Though, out of common courtesy, I must gear up to meet the good people who resuscitated me and deployed the defibrillator. I can’t face being told what happened when I crashed to the ground in any detail. I hope they understand this and don’t think I am being rude.
As for the new me, we will have to wait and see how that pans out — my feeling is it won’t go well.
Source: Read Full Article