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Interview HA10

Age at interview: 63
Age at diagnosis: 63
Brief Outline: Heart attack April 2003. Angioplasty and stent, September 2003. Current medication' aspirin, atenonol, ramipril, clopidogrel, simvastatin
Background: HGV driver; Married, 2 children

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Describes what it was like on the coronary care unit.

Describes what it was like on the coronary care unit.

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So as soon as a bed became available early the following morning I was admitted to the cardiac ward at [the hospital]. And there I went into a section which is equipped with full monitoring equipment and I was on various drips and goodness knows what else. 

It's an intimidating place to find yourself in because all this monitoring equipment is all, emitting all strange sorts of bleep's and noises and it's very difficult to relax. It is also you know it struck me as unusual at the time, probably a very good reason for it, a mixed ward so you had ladies and gents all in together.  

But the one thing we, looking round the ward, all had, seemed to have in common is everybody looked most unlike heart problem people in that they all looked fit but to be there they had to be suffering from a heart problem.

And I suppose the one very distressing thing was that you soon became aware that not frequently but on a number of occasions during the time that I was there you know people were being admitted and they didn't make it and we had the all too familiar thing happen where all the curtains were drawn and you knew that somebody else hadn't made it and they were on their way.  

So yes that really took the, you know brought home to you the seriousness of the situation. But what seemed to be pretty common was that for the most of us the condition was so well controlled, and I was on medication and monitoring and all the rest of it, we didn't really feel ill so we amused ourselves by setting up an escape committee and deciding how we were going to get out of this place [laughs]. 

 

The angiogram was less alarming than he had expected.

The angiogram was less alarming than he had expected.

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So on the Friday the angiogram was just a one day procedure. Went into the hospital at eight o clock in the morning, because I was diabetic they made me the first on the list which is very nice. I knew exactly what the angiogram entailed and I'd read several times with the various booklets that I'd been given that there would be no discomfort or what have you. 

But the thought of something being put from your groin up to your heart I found very disturbing and I was not looking forward to it one little bit. 

But I have to say that the, I asked for a pre-med to try and calm me down a little bit because I did, I did feel very het up about it and the whole procedure was quite innocuous, other than the moving tilting bed and the xray machine on a powered arm over your head within inches of your nose and constantly changing position, it was, it's not a thing to get worried about.

Were you awake for the whole time.

Oh yes, yes completely awake. I didn't ask to see the xray screen, see what was going on, I couldn't face that [laughs] but I never felt a thing.

 

He had no chest pain and found it difficult to believe that he had had a heart attack.

He had no chest pain and found it difficult to believe that he had had a heart attack.

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At various times I've had to be reminded about how serious it was and I find that very difficult to accept. I suppose to a certain extent you know we are conditioned by the media, the heart attack is always a very dramatic event and I'm sure in many cases it is. But in my own case it was really a non-event. 

I can't tell you how I felt when the A & E doctor at [the local hospital] turned to me and said to me "You're having a heart attack now," I thought you must be joking, I really did. Okay I felt washed out and uncomfortable. I felt tired and as I say you know once they started to administer all the various drugs then twenty minutes later I wanted to go home. And then you know when they turn round and say "No you've had a major heart attack," my God [laughs].

What else did you feel at that point?

Oh it's very difficult to quantify. I suppose you realise with horror that a lot of things that you've done, as part of your daily life up to that point might not be available to you in the future. My steam locomotive driving, my HGV driving, the income it generates you've really got to rethink your life and at that stage I suppose in a sense you're almost in a state of shock so you can't think straight and you know you realise that it is a defining point of your life. 

But for whatever reason, may be because, if I, if I'd experienced a lot of pain with it, it may well be that my outlook would be completely different. I might be feeling very much more sorry for myself. 

 

An ECG taken in the ambulance suggested a heart attack and a second ECG in casualty confirmed it.

An ECG taken in the ambulance suggested a heart attack and a second ECG in casualty confirmed it.

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So I managed to get out of the cab without any problems whatsoever, walked to the ambulance. He got me laying down in the back of the ambulance and connected me up to the ECG machine with six connections, did a trace, looked at it and he said "Well," you know he wasn't sure that there was a problem but he'd do another one with twelve leads which he put the additional connections on and did that. 

And again he said, 'he wasn't sure there was a problem but he felt that he really ought to take me to [the local hospital] and get me checked out in the A & E department'.

As soon as they reversed back up to the entrance there was a doctor there, straight into the ambulance and I was out, into A & E and rather surprised to find that I was being taken into the resuscitation room. 

And I was immediately put on an ECG and as the trace came out the doctor turned to me and said "Well the good news is you haven't had a heart attack, the bad news is you're having it at the moment." And I was astounded because I was not in pain, okay I didn't feel at all well but it was more lethargy than anything that I felt.  

 

He had another heart attack while on the coronary care unit and so took longer to recover.

He had another heart attack while on the coronary care unit and so took longer to recover.

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And I'm naturally an early riser, you know soon after five after morning and having been to have a wash and shave early before the rush started, talking to one of the nurses, I suddenly realised that the old discomfort was returning. 

And I mentioned this to the nurse who followed me back, me back to the bed put me on the ward monitors again and before I knew it I was having an ECG and all of the now familiar rigmarole of clot buster's and pain killers were being administered. 

And he said he thought I was having a second heart attack. Subsequently I was told that the ECG certainly suggested I was having a second heart attack but the blood tests did not reveal any changes in my blood, which suggested I hadn't had a second heart attack. 

So quite what happened I don't know but it was back to square one again on the routine, which was very disappointing to say at the least.  

 

Describes how he prepared for the exercise tests he needed to pass to get his HGV licence agreed.

Describes how he prepared for the exercise tests he needed to pass to get his HGV licence agreed.

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And the cardiac nurses at my local hospital were very supportive and got me the specification, the track speed and the inclination for the duration for the first, the three parts each lasts three minutes. And I went and set it up on a treadmill at the local gym and was delighted to find that I could go straight into those exercises without any problem, I could do it straight off.  

The only thing that concerned me was I was on a beta blocker as part of my medication and I knew that when I took the test I'd have to come off the beta blocker and I didn't know what that was, what effect that was going to have. 

Eventually the appointment came through which told me to stop the beta blocker four days beforehand which I did and once I'd been off the beta blocker for twenty four hours I went and tried out the exercises at the gym and found that in fact the only effect was to increase my heart rate by about fifteen beats a minute.

On the appointed day I went into [the hospital] for the exercise test it was all very straight forward, it was a prone ECG, a standing up ECG and then the ECG on the treadmill. And the technician carrying out the test was very encouraging and was telling me all the way through I was doing brilliantly and I think the, you know having done it previously it was beneficial certainly. 

And he was of the opinion that I'd had a very satisfactory test and subsequently I've had a letter from the consultant saying that he found it very encouraging and was forwarding it to the DVLA.  

 

He felt much better after the initial treatments he was given in hospital.

He felt much better after the initial treatments he was given in hospital.

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And of course everything started happening then, I was put on drips and clot busters and pain killers and everything were administered, quite a flurry of activity. And within twenty minutes I felt as right as rain, I felt oh you know I can go home now but they wouldn't let me [laughs]. 

I stayed in under observation in A & E for about six hours and this was through the night. They called my wife who arrived with one of my daughters with her partner in the early hours of the morning and stayed with me for some while and were rather surprised to see me sitting up feeling quite bright and cheerful wondering what the hell all the panic was about. They went, I started pressing them about being discharged. 

They said that in fact I'd had a major heart attack and it was probably as a result of my diabetes that I was not feeling any pain other than general discomfort. The following morning I was admitted to the cardiac ward.

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