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Interview 33

Age at interview: 43
Brief Outline: Had planned triple heart bypass surgery in 2004. After surgery, spent 1 day in intensive care, 2 days in a High Dependency Unit, and 2 days in a general ward.
Background: Occupation: social worker. Marital status: married. Number of children: 3. Ethnic background: Welsh.

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He felt that everything about the surgery was explained thoroughly but would have liked more...

He felt that everything about the surgery was explained thoroughly but would have liked more...

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So it was a triple heart bypass.

So you knew you were going to be in Intensive Care and what you thought was indigestion turned out to be quite serious?

Yes, yes. Heart disease. I had three blockages in the artery, part of the arteries that feed the heart itself, so I was quite lucky really.

And what did the doctor explain to you would happen?

He explained everything, he explained it very thoroughly. I was then referred to a cardiac nurse from [place name] who came to see me twice. She explained everything properly. I then went in to [city] itself and the hospital and everything was explained to me apart from one thing, and I was really worried about it and I wouldn't ask, and it was the catheter.

And I was so worried that I'm thinking, I'm not going to have the operation because I thought it was an invasion you know. And so the night before the op I asked a patient who'd had the operation, "What was it like when you had the catheter?" and he said, "Well you won't know, you're asleep by then", and that was [makes phew sound] so I should imagine there's loads of men worry about that, not prepared to ask because it's a private question and I should have asked first thing really. So that's my advice to anybody, if you're worried about the catheter, you're under the anaesthetic when it happens, so you don't know a thing. And that was basically my main worry because I knew if I didn't have the operation, the future, well there was no future.

Did you get to see it before you went into hospital at all, the ward itself, where you'd be going?

No, I saw it on video. That was the preparation. I should imagine it's the travelling again, if it's in [local town] they could prepare you better for this is where you'll be. But you know you just can't afford the whole day to go to [city]. 

 

He might not have survived surgery to see his children grow up, he now wants to make the most of...

He might not have survived surgery to see his children grow up, he now wants to make the most of...

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You feel you're lonely, even though you're surrounded by people and friends, sometimes I felt I couldn't talk about my innermost feelings to my wife because it was so personal really and I didn't want to burden her either. There was one good friend who I could talk about and things, no two actually, two, who I phoned the night before the op and if anything happens, please look after my wife and children, you know. Because that's where I was really before going to the hospital.

And one of them said, oh don't, you'll be fine, but you can't guarantee that so...It was like, I hadn't made a will or anything but it was like making a will, please look after my children, you know, and my wife. Just if you are in that lonely place, speak to somebody. Well I got through it and it's changed my life around.

There is one element of this operation that, well you've got nothing to worry about. It's happened so often now. Don't worry, you'll come through it. You know, at the time, I felt like hitting people who said that to me because it wasn't them that was going there. It was me. And from a psychological point of view as well, I don't know if anybody else has told you this as well, my wife and I had a discussion about it at the beginning of the week actually when she knew you were coming, it's only, even though she was very supportive and very strong and you know got through it together, it was only me who went through the op.

But she knew she was going home. She knew she would most likely see her children growing up. I didn't know at the time. So psychologically now, I feel I've become a little bit more selfish. It's hard to explain but I'm here now and I want to make the most of it, you know?
 
 

He felt stronger after having heart surgery but was tired and hallucinating when he first came...

He felt stronger after having heart surgery but was tired and hallucinating when he first came...

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I vaguely remember my wife coming, well you know being with me. I remember a nurse giving me a bed wash, which was brilliant because I felt like I was sweating. And then I remember being tired. We've got to remember everybody was speaking English around me, and I was speaking Welsh to my wife. But every time I closed my eyes, everybody was speaking English, then turned to speaking Welsh, which they didn't but it was just the anaesthetic or whatever. Then once I opened my eyes, they reverted back to English and when I closed my eyes, they reverted back to Welsh, which I couldn't understand. I remember telling my wife, they're playing a joke on me because everybody here speaks Welsh but they're refusing to speak Welsh to me.

 

He had very little pain after the operation and on his second day back home was able to walk a mile.

He had very little pain after the operation and on his second day back home was able to walk a mile.

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Well I was so surprised, the pain relief was brilliant. I bought a little DVD combi for the bedroom thinking, because you know they open up your chest, it's open heart surgery isn't it? It's quite a major op. I thought I'd be in quite a bit of pain for a month or so. So I bought this DVD player, DVD TV combi, thought I'd be watching DVD's and films and things for a month. But there was no pain at all. The only pain was when you coughed. But, as I mentioned, I used to play rugby and I've had more pain after a game of rugby, people standing on you or whatever, than that. The pain relief was brilliant.

So I started walking, the second day I managed a mile, the second day I got home. Because I live in a rural place and there was this, about two hundred yards from my house, there's a little gate that leads to a farmer's field and I couldn't walk up to that before the op. But the first day I came home, I was able to walk, that was the challenge to me. Before the op I said, the first day I come back, I'm going to, so it's things like that that I do now. That's what I've changed. And I've explained how, with work, say if I've got lots of notes to do, before I would do three quarters of it and leave the rest till tomorrow. Now I'll do all of it today and it's the same with mountains. I'll say right but I'll go to the top. But in the past I could say right I'll go nearly to the top and say I've been to the top. It's like I'm challenging myself more. 

 

He did a lot of walking while he was recovering at home and went back to work three months after...

He did a lot of walking while he was recovering at home and went back to work three months after...

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So you were at home, how long did you spend at home before you felt right I'm fit enough to go back to work and...?

Well there is a period where they say that you should not go to work for three months after the op, which I adhered to. But I felt, well what I did basically was I could have, the last month if I was paid fully forever, I could have lived like that. I'd go to the mountains, with the dog, during the morning, get home, pick the children up from school and get the tea ready for my wife when she came home from work. But unfortunately we got to pay the bills, so I had to come back to work but... No, I was good. I was still getting on, going to talk with my GP, the cardiac nurse came to see me twice and said well I don't need to see you again actually, you're doing remarkably well.

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