And the beat goes on …

18 August 12 – it’s being a bit slow. In 2008 it had fully bloomed by 1 August.
Well, that was fun. I’ve just had 2 1/2 days in Hollywood Private Hospital having my heart probed again. No problem, all’s well. Actually, possibly not entirely well, otherwise I may not be having these turns, but there are no obvious things to be fixed. However, it could be my medication. See further down.
On Wednesday evening about 6pm my heart started doing its usual war dance – fibrillations and chaotic beating. Trouble was, it was a bit worse than usual and I felt very breathless, leaning against the door frames, feeling quite distressed. It was also hurting in the centre of my chest quite badly. Nowhere else, no radiating pains.
I did my usual thing of using GTN spray and after a few minutes it eased up, but I was feelin’ pretty bad and called 000. I also called Tonya next door to help with Minnie and luckily Emily was home, so she zoomed straight over. The ambo guys arrived and they know Em, so a nice little party atmosphere developed, except I wasn’t much fun.
They hooked me up and said straight away there was normal sinus rhythm, so the drama was all over, but I don’t mind admitting I was in floods of tears because I just felt very, very tired, as well as being tired of this happening. Literally sick and tired of it.
I keep a bag marked I.C.E. for this very reason – it contains changes of jocks, T-shirts, teeth kit, combs, soap, nasal decongestant, and most importantly, my previous scans and angio results. It just needed my CPAP machine packing up, which Tonya did, and needing to  grab all my medications in their original boxes! The hospital won’t accept my daily pill box. They want the actual scripts and the original packaging, so that took up another bag.  Yesssir, three bags full.
They let me walk out to the ambulance and I climbed in. I made the usual comment about feeling like a fraud and they must be busy? The medic said, “Actually, sir, you’re the first genuine call we’ve had in two days. All the others have been spurious, like someone just being drunk or feeling a bit stupid.”
First to Charlies and two hours of boredom, blood tests and X-ray. Result: no heart attack. Amazing how uncomfortable it is lying on your back.
Then back to the ambulance and across to HPH, where the only bed available was in the ICU. No complaints though, terrific service.
Eventually, about 1am, I was able to settle down for some sleep. I’d had no dinner, so I was quite hungry, but there was no food available. Too bad.
Unfortunately, my CPAP tube was full of water, so I got a blast of water in my face when I started it up! Some water also seemed to have got into the electronics, too, so it kept stopping and giving an error message. Panic! I need that machine. I kept at it, going through the menus and resetting it, and eventually it settled down.
Even more annoying, I couldn’t find my nasal spray, and I asked if the ward had some. Nope. OK, what about some saline in a spray bottle? Nope. It seemed an impossible request, that a hospital would have a small sprayer! Not too impressed with that.
So I had to go the night with a blocked up nose on CPAP. It’s not easy. I turned the humidifier up so the air was moist and awoke in the morning feeling OK, but not as good as usual.
Then, rummaging through my I.C.E. bag, there I found two bottles of decongestant. They were there all along. Booger.
Next morning, more waiting, waiting, waiting in ICU. Another X-ray, where I noted that the machine’s alignment window was canted at about 10deg when lined up on me. I said, “Am I tilted or twisted?” and he said, yes, a bit. So even when I think I’m sitting straight, I’m tilted to the right. Spine curvature? Yes, please.
Then about 2pm (Thursday) news of an angiogram about 1030am tomorrow (Friday). But they need an echocardiogram first.
The nurse phones the echo dept. Hello? “Hello?” (It is an echo department … ) “Yes, we can fit him in tomorrow afternoon.” But that’s after the angio! “Oh, er, OK.” Well, how about now?  OK, so she comes right over, bringing the portable machine.
I get the jelly applied and presto, I’m watching my heart beating. Wow! It is an amazing experience. She can zoom in and actually show the chambers, just as they appear in diagrams. She turns the sound on and there it is, lub dub, lub dub, lub dub.  I’m thinking, I know I can speed my heart up — I wonder if I can slow it down, but I can’t right then.
I  say to the sonographer, “Wow, I can see the baby’s head. Can you tell me the sex?”
She finishes up and says, “I’m not supposed to tell you, but it looks fine.” Nice feeling.
Then finally, I’m moved upstairs (er, in a lift, of course) to a proper bed in a proper ward. Beautiful afternoon light, digital TV, my own shower/bathroom (only shared in ICU). Comfort!
I realise, after I washed my CPAP mask downstairs, I left the head strap in the bathroom. I walk to the nurses’ station and with the mask in my hand, ask if they can phone down and have someone find the strap and bring it up.
The nurse on the phone says, “Mr Croft has left his CPAP mask in the bathroom.” NO I HAVEN’T! Here it is in my hand. It’s the strap I want.  “Oh, er, he wants the blue strap.” Well, glad we sorted that out.
They’ve locked all my medications away from me, of course. By 6.30pm, my feet are aching, stinging and burning, my leg is itching like mad and my arse is very painful (inflammation etc). I look for my Panadeine in my bag. It’s gone, locked away!!! I get upset, I don’t mind saying. I’m in pain. I realise, when I think about it, that I actually have chronic pain, every day. I just hadn’t thought about it before, but no wonder I get irritable sometimes. Eventually, I’m allowed to take a two Panadeine and it eases off.
Delicious dinner. I don’t mind hospital food one bit. It’s excellent, better than I usually get.
By 8.30pm I’m zonked and say I’m going to turn in. “Oh, the doctor will be coming around soon.” OK, I’ll hang on. I try to stay awake but by 9.30 I can’t stay awake and roll over to sleep.
At 10pm the full room light is switched oer up so the air have to do yourwoke in the morning feeling OK, t annoyed.
Then, rummaging through my I.C.E. bag, there I found two bottles of my spray. They were there all along. Booger.
[A whole section of my writing today has been lost here due to bugs in Google Blogger! I’ll try to replace it later.]
On Friday morning I was fasting for the operation and by 0930 I was really desperate for carbs. I was tense, irritable, cranky, upset and dehydrated, just as I am when I go too long without food.
I asked the nurse for a lozenge to suck on, explaining how bad I was feeling. She didn’t care one bit! She measured my blood sugar – it was normal, so that was it as far as she was concerned.
“Now, Mr Croft, I think you’re just getting your knickers in a twist. Just take some slow deep breaths and calm down.” And that was that. That’s all she was prepared to do or say.
After another hour the crisis had passed but I was drooping and half asleep. This is what happens when I can’t have food. In hindsight, I think it’s carbohydrate craving, but I need to investigate further.
However, although I have the highest regard for nurses, this particular one was the worst, least co-operative, coldest, most unsympathetic I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I’m going to make a written complaint about her. I actually think she may be near retirement, but I’ll say I will refuse to have her tend me again. She just ignored anything I had to say. I was furious.
So finally, at 11am, I was wheeled down to the CCU, the Cardio Catheter Unit. Brrrr, cold! I was parked and given a hot blanket, and tended by Clare, a vision of loveliness. These cardio nurses are my kinda woman!
Finally, about 11:30am, I’m in and struggling to slide myself over onto the narrow operating table without falling. I’m too big for them to risk trying to lift me. But eventually I got there, feeling desperately with my right hand for something to grab onto to pull myself across. There’s nothing to grab onto! I got there.
Cold!! It’s like a morgue in there. They whip the covers off and smear cold Betadine all over my arm and groin. No false modesty in there – you’re exposed. Too bad. I had asked several times for something for anxiety, but as far as I can tell, I got nothing – I suppose I calmed down but I don’t mind admitting, I felt pretty nervous.
Then this guy in huge black rimmed glasses comes sweeping in and it takes me a while to realise it’s the doc himself wearing safety glasses. He says nothing to me. We’ve only met very briefly in the corridor. He takes my right arm and starts twisting and pressing it down to an angle where he wants it, but it’s unnatural and under pressure. They tie it down with tape but the tape keeps breaking. They pack sheets under it to lift it, but it still feels twisted. Too bad.
Then he says, “OK, this’ll sting a bit.” and it does! Ow! It’s the local anaesthetic, but boy, it hurts. I start to feel a little drowsy and a bit more relaxed, but still well aware. He works fast, no time for chit-chat. If I’d said, “Who you barracking for this weekend?” I doubt he’d have answered me. Total concentration.
Lots of presses on my right arm, but no other feeling, except a bit of chest pain from time to time and extra beats. I report any chest pains. At one point, I say, “I feel as if I want to cough.” He says, “OK, but please don’t.” It goes away.  Lights go up and down, the X-ray head moves around robotically, I can’t see the screens unfortunately. The heart pains are quite strong at times, but stop immediately after. I cry out once as it hurts a bit, but it stops.
Finally, I get an incredibly warm feeling in my ears, then immediately afterwards in my balls! It last about 10 seconds. I laugh and tell him but get no answer. I think that’s the contrast dye injection, right near the end.
Then after about 15-20 mins, it’s over. I’m asked to get off the table and stand up, move to the bed and lie down again. They wheel me back out into the corridor where I’m left alone, with a transparent plastic pressure device pressing hard over the wound in my right arm. I’m given an empty plastic syringe to hold in my left hand and asked to hang on to it. I bet this device costs a bomb! Anything medical …

The pressure wound closure device. Dead simple – made in Japan.
 The surgeon comes by briefly and says, reassuringly, “It all looked good. Your stents look fine. I didn’t see any other problems. Come and see me in about 4 weeks.” I say what about our appointment next Tuesday? No, don’t worry about that one, four weeks. And yes, stay on the lower dose of Sotalol (as I had said I want to try).
NB: he had said 240mg of Sotalol is quite a high dose. Well, that’s the opposite of what my previous doctor told me. He’d said 240mg was quite a low dose and he’d had “elderly women on much higher doses than I’m giving you”. I remember this clearly in his office at Northcourt, Karrinyup. (He’s retired now.)
What??!!  Who do I believe? Is it possible I’ve been given a bum steer for the past 6-9 years? The side effects of Sotalol are quite bad – it can cause arrhythmias, the very thing it’s meant to relieve. Other effects are:
  • tiredness (YES!)
  • tachycardias (yes)
  • shortness of breath (yes)
  • unexplained rash (yes)
  • hives (yes)
  • itching (YES!)
  • unexplained swelling (yes)
  • wheezing (yes)
  • fatigue (yes)
  • chest pain (yes)
  • palpitations (yes)
  • general weakness (YES!)
  • water retention or swelling (yes)
  • diahorrea (yes, to a lesser extent)
  • arm or leg pain (yes)
  • sleep problems (yes)
  • new or worsened arrhythmia (yes)
I’m getting all these things! (I’ve left out the ones I don’t get such as nausea/vomiting; lung problems, etc.)
______________________________________
Back to the story, briefly — I’m left alone in the corridor, ignored for half an hour; needing a piss; finally, when I started waving and shouting, the Dragom (sic – I’ll explain later) arrives and I’m wheeled back to the ward.
She commands me to lie still and not move my arm. Er, too late, lady, no-one told me, no-one paid me any attention, I’ve already been lifting it to look and waving it around.
It’s now 1.30pm and I still haven’t been able to eat or drink. I ask for some sandwiches and am firmly told, “When I’ve done my observations.”  i.e. No, not yet, you’ll have to wait.
Five minutes later, a tray arrives with my lunch, but it’s sit up food. I ask the nurse Dragom to pass me the brown bread roll, at least. She ignores me! She doesn’t answer me. I ask for water. She ignores me. When she’s ready! She just goes on writing. It doesn’t matter what I say, she doesn’t pay me any attention.
I’m getting really stroppy now, but finally, she gets me a glass of water and a straw. I drain the glass.
Thank goodness, at 2pm she goes off shift and Natalie takes over. What a difference! I’m practically in tears of gratitude. She is so much easier to deal with. She gets me sandwiches and passes me the roll, which finally quells my cravings.
At about 3pm I’m allowed to sit up and I can finally go for a pee. I’m told I can go home at 4pm so I phone Barry and great guy he is, he arrives and takes me home on a glorious sunny afternoon. Beers are consumed!
So, that was the saga. Dragom is an anagram of the dragon lady nurse’s name, and I am going to complain. This was unacceptable treatment.
So good to be home and with a hope that I may be able to sort out this awful drug. Can it be possible that it has been causing me all these problems of fatigue and itching and heart problems???
I am suffering from iatrogenic effects. Problems caused by medical treatment. Not just this, in other ways, too. I’m gradually coming to realise this and gradually beginning to sort it all out. But I have suffered.
Boy, have I suffered. In the hospital, I started to make a timeline going back to 1990. I have been going through hell for nearly 20 years. Maybe I can see an end to the suffering at last and a chance to get my life back. Getting there …
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