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Interview HA28

Age at interview: 71
Age at diagnosis: 65
Brief Outline: Heart attack 1998. Thrombolytic (clotbuster) drug. Coronary artery bypass surgery one week after heart attack. Current medication' aspirin, atenolol, pravastatin (lipostat)
Background: Retired, Sales & Marketing; Married, 2 children

More about me...

 

During his echocardiogram, the doctors could see that further treatment was necessary.

During his echocardiogram, the doctors could see that further treatment was necessary.

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When you actually go in to have the [echo] cardiogram, I didn't appreciate, again you're so unaware, the conditions at [the specialist hospital] to me it was space age, you go in and it's unbelievable. I hadn't been anywhere like it before, I hadn't been anywhere near the medical profession and there's this huge screen and the guy says, by now you're trying to get yourself up to speed so that when they talk, you can talk reasonably intelligently to them you know. 

You have to take a decision, either I'm going to be like an idiot or I'll try and respond and they had said there were three areas on coronary arteries that they would look at. The first one came up and all I saw was this huge great fat black line and he said, 'That's excellent, that's how a coronary artery should be.'  

The next one came up, which I now know no is like an inverted wand and I now know it's known as 'the widow maker' because if that's blocked above it, you're in trouble and he wasn't at all happy and they did a quick third one, said, 'That's okay.' 

Came back to this other one, everything went quiet. I was looking at it thinking, 'well it's obviously nothing like the first one, he couldn't really see that the lines were connected even' and then his head appeared and said, 'We're requesting surgical intervention immediately' and bang, that's when it hits you. So that was it.

 

He found it difficult to accept that he had had a heart attack.

He found it difficult to accept that he had had a heart attack.

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Well with hindsight, you pick up the terminology and I realise now that you just go into a state of denial, you just don't accept it. You just refuse to believe that this is happening to me. I enjoyed super health all my life and I worked until I was sixty-five and this happened within three months of me retiring. It just seems so wrong and you refuse to accept it. 

The initial days in [the local hospital], they did have staff there who were responsible for looking after your, your comfort side, I can't think how better to put it. They're very sympathetic, they come and explain things to you, what's happening, because all the time you're struggling not to go in this channel. 

You can't believe that you're going to go down there and when the, the consultants or surgeons appear, they talk in an everyday language to them, which is very sort of esoteric, and you think well that's nothing to do with me, I don't want to know any of that. 

 

He felt that his retirement had been snatched away from him.

He felt that his retirement had been snatched away from him.

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Yes, that's, it's the thought that in my case having worked until I was 65, always pushing on, pushing on you know and I had thoughts that, well if I get twenty years, I've kept reasonably fit, if I get twenty years you know, 85 doesn't seem too much to ask these days, there is longevity in the family. That's what you're aiming for and you think that's all gone. 

Then it comes to you in stark reality that my mother died, she collapsed and died immediately with a heart attack when she was 53 and in the hospital, they say to you, 'Okay we have to go through this list; do you smoke, are you overweight, do you take exercise?' and the whole list I got a tick, everything was great until you know, it's your genes. 'Anybody in the family?' 'Mum died at 53' and they just tick it, they don't know why and a lot of work going in to that now. But yes, you think these twenty years has been snatched away from you.

 

He thought he had indigestion so he took indigestion pills but when it didn't go away he called...

He thought he had indigestion so he took indigestion pills but when it didn't go away he called...

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I first suspected there was something wrong when I thought I had a bad bout of indigestion. I had decided, having just retired that I would take up golf, and in the morning I had a golf lesson. In the afternoon, I decided it was time to start clearing up the garden, so I literally chopped a tree down and in the evening suffered this bad bout of indigestion. I thought that I'll sleep it off. My wife gave me some indigestion pills that she said were very effective. 

But in the early hours of the morning I realised that it wasn't getting any better. She phoned the surgery when she could and booked an appointment. I still had this enormous pain that you refuse to accept is anything other than indigestion and had a shower ready to go to the surgery. Going back upstairs after the shower, it really hit me. 

So she phoned them and we had absolutely marvellous service, they immediately, they asked her for symptoms and she said, 'Well he's got this pain in his arm,' which meant nothing to us, it meant nothing to me, I thought I'd strained a muscle chopping the tree down and they said, 'there's an ambulance on it's way,' and I was taken to hospital.

 

He felt devastated when he was told that he needed bypass surgery one week after his heart attack.

He felt devastated when he was told that he needed bypass surgery one week after his heart attack.

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The few days I spent in [the local hospital], they explained lots of things about heart attacks and said that 'because of the readings they were getting, they felt it was a heart attack, but if it settled down then I would go through a normal convalescent period and things would be fine,' and you think that's going to be alright. You think, 'yeah, I'll get fit again.' 

But then when you're taken to [the specialist hospital] and you actually see on the screen the effects of what's going on and then somebody says, 'we're requesting surgical intervention immediately,' it is a shock of some magnitude. Yeah, I knew that, yeah, yeah I knew that there was something seriously wrong with a fundamental part of your anatomy and they'd got to do something about it. 

The nurse then that was on the ward, she was just terrific. She was so comforting and sympathetic and I, I think I was in tears, not from a weakness point of view but sheer frustration and aggression. This can't be me, I haven't spent my life playing sport, all my life, and enjoying good health to have to have people hack me open and put this thing that's gone wrong, right. 

 

He learnt to play golf, and played for five years after his heart attack.

He learnt to play golf, and played for five years after his heart attack.

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So I don't think there's anything. I didn't start playing golf until I retired; the morning I had the indigestion, I had the first lesson. I phoned the Golf Pro up and said, 'I don't know what your golf lessons do but I'm not sure I should have any more.' [laughs]. 

So yes, I played five years of golf until this year. It hasn't really affected me. I get confused now because we are moving over in to more cerebral pursuits. 

My wife has just graduated from the OU with an Arts degree and so we go to an Arts, a Womans Voluntary Association arts course in [the local town], which is the benefit of living in this area. We get the Head of the [the local university] Arts department come and lecture to us. 

So we go off on trips to art galleries and we do an awful lot of babysitting at the moment. So I'm shifting away from lots of heavy physical stuff. Got the garden sorted out since, since I had the heart attack. 

So an awful lot of it is now, it looks after itself, there's no maintenance to it, you know we put shrubs in where there used to be beds, so you're not out there forever cutting away at that. But I don't think it's really physically affected me at all.

 

He introduced a small incline into his walking programme during his recovery from bypass surgery.

He introduced a small incline into his walking programme during his recovery from bypass surgery.

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These friends who had been looking after my wife were coming up to see me were quite astonished I think to find us walking. We didn't realise that, didn't study the book accurately to realise that it said after so may weeks I think it was, or days, as your programme progresses, try to introduce a little incline into your walking. 

Well [laughs] my wife did read it and she decided that she would drive me up to the top and we'd walk along the tops but I had some friends who came and goodness knows what they were expecting to find, these are work people, but I was halfway up the main hill and they recognised me and couldn't believe it. 

They said, "we've come to visit a patient, we've come expecting to find you all stretched out and feet up," and I was doing my walk, because we've got this magnificent area around here, this is a fabulous place for walking but it's hilly. So that was the rehab.

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