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Interview HF28

Age at interview: 74
Age at diagnosis: 73
Brief Outline: 2 heart attacks 1995. Triple bypass 1996. Diagnosis of diabetes 1995/6. Heart failure diagnosed some years later, probably in 2002.
Background: Retired public relations; widowed, no children.

More about me...

 

A nurse gave him a book about heart failure but he found it rather depressing.

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Firstly I don't have a computer, well I could go to the library I suppose. Books, yes in passing, and of course I read the adverts. Of course I read the medical write-ups in the paper but that's about all. I mean that keeps me up to speed, if you like. I'm not going to try and treat anybody and I think you can get terribly morbid if you start you know, in other words do you want to be buoyant or do you want to be pessimistic? And I don't think I want to be pessimistic and live my life in [sneezes] I was given a book in hospital.  The nurse seemed to think that I could probably read more than 4 pages and gave me an American book on dealing with heart attacks and what one should do, and walk and you know all the things that you should do.

So she said, 'How are you getting on with that book?' and I said, 'Not very well'. 'Why not?' I said, 'There are too many people dying'!  And she said, 'Oh!  I think I'd better take it back again'. But I don't really want to get heavily into books about medicine. I want a healthy interest in it, yes but not to become obsessive, no. 

 

A newspaper advertisement made him think he had heart failure.

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Well did I not say this to earlier on, that when I was seeing, well it wasn't my doctor but she was part of the practice and she was extremely good, but when you go down for an emergency you take any doctor, of course. And she'd been working away on this and she'd been increasing my diuretic pills and she was making an appointment for me to see, have a scan. And this was before I got to the consultant bit, when I started reading these things. I was saying, 'This is what this doctor thinks I've got, I'm sure of it' so I kind of cut it out and I took it down and I said, 'By the way you're treating me, do you think that I've got heart failure?' And she said, she obviously didn't want to put the fear of God up me and she said, 'Well yes, but I think they go over the top a bit'. In other words don't take everything you read in the paper!  And that's when I realised that she was treating me for heart failure which I thought was just puffiness, if you know what I mean. I was probably a bit dense in clicking but that was when it really clicked, from the advert. 

I don't remember, if it was it went over me. It was the actual text matter describing the whole thing and spelling it out that there was no cure for it, that was the thing. You've got it and it was a no-hope sort of advert, really. And... well we're all going to die sometime, and whether they're just putting off the day I go, because they certainly won't find a cure. So I mean, maybe for once they weren't being too alarmist that in fact there is no cure anyway. But they can do a lot for you before you pop off, that's all you can say.

 

He thinks that working too hard and living life to the full led to a heart attack.

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Well I think deep down we all know what causes it..I think it was my lifestyle, really. I used to smoke a lot although I've been off them for 40 years now, believe it or not, yes, but I used to smoke 40 a day anyway. My work was great fun but stressful. I used to drink quite a bit in work, not alcoholically, but I used to be a heavy drinker at times. And then when dealing with the press, etc., I used to feel I had to drink because they looked asquint until I learned the old habit of using Canadian dry ginger in your glass instead of a whisky and they wouldn't know the difference! At least I think they didn't!

But we used to work hard and play hard and certainly at the times of meetings in London and meetings in Glasgow, I would be up at 6 o'clock getting the place ready for the meetings at half past eight. Finishing meetings about 6 o'clock at night, then going to the bar before dinner, talking business, dinner business with wine, etc., and then probably be redesigning things that had gone wrong during the day right up to 12 o'clock at night when you tumbled into bed! So admittedly that only went on sort of at a fortnight at a time about twice a year, sort of thing, so it wasn't punishing the whole story. But you had other things happening that sometimes raised the blood pressure a bit but those were quite hard times of, well you didn't feel then, you thoroughly enjoyed it, in fact, but it was rather punishing on one's body I would say, yes. And driving down to London with all my toys, as I called them, all my designs and things, for displays, etc was probably not the best way of going.

Okay, so a mixture of lifestyle and work?

And feeding of course. I was too fond of my steak and chips rather than other things, which would, if you follow? Coming from Glasgow our diets were particularly bad.

Well I'm sure you weren't eating deep-fried Mars bars?

No, no, no. I never got quite to deep-fried Mars bars! I was intrigued mind you, but fish and chips I think is about my, or steak and chips preferably.
 
 

He noticed he was breathless at night and went to see his doctor.

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Nobody told me that, well I was told that every time I had a heart attack the muscles in my heart died a little or were damaged, and that they wouldn't recover at that time and up to the present time there is no recovery, although they're working on it!  And...the consultant, no not the consultant, the surgeon that actually did the thing said that he didn't think he would get rid of my breathlessness completely with this but it should do me. It should prevent any more heart attacks coming and should look after me for... I think approximately 10 years. And that was that. I had a triple bypass and I had a nurse come and take out the stitches and see me here, and then she went ill and I never saw anybody again for about 7' years.  

When I started getting very alarmingly puffy, and especially alarming was getting breathless lying down in bed and I thought well this is not right, this is something wrong. And... it was then I went down to the local doctor and it was an emergency appointment so it was a lady doctor, who was very good, and she decided to send me for a scan in the [name of Hospital] the hospital. And there was an Irish lady doctor there, who had a good look at everything and said there hadn't been any great deterioration in my heart, but it might be a good thing to see the consultant. 
 
 

His heart failure nurse visits him once a fortnight.

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Well mainly it was my local practitioner. Then when they put me onto the consultant, the scene changed, if you like.  And now that I've got this cardiac nurse coming round who, surprisingly enough... I said, 'Well do I go and see you or you come to see me?  And he said, 'It doesn't matter, whichever you like.' And I thought, well this is terrific and he is terrific. He comes round about once a fortnight and chats to you and takes your blood, of course, to see how your pills are reacting on your kidneys and things like that, which I need. He will tell you why he's doing that and I can ask him any question I like, and he's very honest and gives me good honest answers, which I'm sure, to the best of his ability, are right. 

 

He finds his heart failure nurse reassuring and honest about his prognosis.

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No, well I was extremely, well of course I didn't have any backup for 7' years but with this new business coming out and being asked, I'm certainly not turning down an offer like that. And as you see over there, there's a volume called 'My Heart' in which I put my weight, you know I do various things for him. My weight and my water consumption and various things like that so that he comes in and has a wee look at it. And it also gives you an awful lot of information and telephone calls and what to do if you think you've got a heart attack and all the rest of it. It's very reassuring.  

I think the things I would like to ask him about heart failure I've already asked the cardiac nurse who was very forthright and I said 'you're a morbid devil, aren't you?' I kind of said what's likely, how's it going to end up and he was quite frank about probably the 2 things that might happen. And put my mind, would you say rest, I don't know? But puts you in an idea of what's, you know you like to know a bit about it.  
 
 

He has someone who cleans his house for him.

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And then just after my wife had died, a social worker came round to see whether we were pleased with the railings and sort of discovering I was newly widowed, bombarded me with all sorts of questions such as, 'Did I need any help getting up in the morning out of bed?' 'Did I need any help getting back into bed?' 'Could I cook for myself?' (Well I can for my own delights, whether you'd like my cooking or not is another matter!) and 'Did I want a woman?' and I thought for one heart beat's moment, my goodness me, what's social work coming to now!  But she was talking about social work aid people, and having discussed it she reckoned that it was a pretty expensive business unless you had them to get you up and put to bed again and unless you were very hard up you had to pay for them and that you'd probably do better on the open market.  

So I have a woman that comes in every, once a week, who hoovers for me and kind of puts the house into some sort of order, which is very good. And that's the way I live. I do my own washing and ironing, etc but she hoovers up and things so the place doesn't become a complete shambles. 

 

Says he will keep going on cruises as long as he can despite his breathlessness.

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I don't know how long I can, the last cruise I went on I had to stagger down to Dover and I went down by night bus and I nearly killed myself with it. But this time it's out of Leith and back into Leith and next year, would you believe, if I'm still alive, that's Dover again but I'm going to fly down to Gatwick and do it all differently. But I'm just wondering how long I can in fact cruise. You know you can't do it forever and the old puffiness and breathing, etc, it makes it look as if, you know the termination is not going to be so very long. But still, I'm going to enjoy while I can and let's see how it goes.  
 

He doesn't want taking pills to take over his life.

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I very rarely, but I have, forgotten to take my pills in the morning or the night... never at night, no. In the morning something happens, somebody phones me up and the day starts and I miss a chunk out of my life, if you know what I mean. And I can usually catch up later on in the day, if I remember. If I don't remember, I don't remember until I'm ready to take my evening pills, in which I would take my morning instead and skip the evening ones. 

But to try and stop my life mid-day, at lunchtime, to remember to take a third lot of pills, if you like, is beyond me. It really upsets my whole day and I can't get into a rhythm. I very rarely, as I say, forget my pills in the morning or night and that's part of my method.  But just to stop the day and take my water pills mid-day is an intrusion on my life because I'm doing things. You know, the day kind of hots up about mid-day! [laughs]  You're either out shopping or, I don't know, it just doesn't work. It may sound very badly organised but that's the way life is. 

...It just doesn't fit a style. I mean, what it means is that to a doctor, all right take them at mid-day and it'll solve your problems, but it doesn't, it creates problems for me. It means that my whole life is a pill-taking exercise, which I don't want it to be! It should be fitted in to my life. You can understand that? 

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