Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Days of focus on living

Five years ago today, I got a stent that opened up a 90% blocked coronary artery, saving my life. At the time, the cardiologist told me that he was surprised that I never had a heart attack, but if I had, it probably would’ve been fatal because of where the blockage was. And, as I’ve said before, the whole reason that ended well is that Nigel helped get me to that point.

Nigel had been coaching me for months, helping me learn to advocate for my own health, because he’d learned to do that for himself. It was his urging and coaching that led me to go to the doctor on the Monday of this week in 2016, and by Wednesday, August 17, 2016, my stent was in and my life saved.

After the procedure was done, and they were wheeling me back to the room, the doors swung open, and the first person I saw was Nigel. In fact, when the doors swung open and he saw me, he practically sprinted across from the waiting area and was about to run through those doors into the area when the nurses basically told him to stop and wait, which he did. I’ve never mentioned that before, but it’s the main image that plays back in my mind when I think about that day. He looked frightened and relieved all at once, and I felt instantly better because he was there.

My relief was because of what happened before the procedure: They’d told me they were taking me into the lab, as they called it, a couple hours earlier than expected, so I rang Nigel to tell him, and he said he’d hop in the shower and come to the hospital. A few minutes later, a rather gruff, non nonsense nurse from the lab came to collect me right then. She didn’t want to give me a chance to ring Nigel, but sighed and let me, telling me to make it quick. There was no answer (he was probably in the shower). So, I sent a quick text, turned my phone off (and bravely put it in the drawer by my bed), and was wheeled away to the lab by a porter.

I was frightened by the procedure: The very idea of inserting a probe into my wrist and wriggling it up to my heart was bad enough, but the thought they might insert a thing into an artery to keep it open, was also bad. The thing I was truly terrified of, though, wasn’t that, but that I could die during the procedure, and that only worried me for one simple reason: Nigel wouldn’t have had the chance to say goodbye.

During the procedure, especially the scary parts, including the only time I felt pain, I just focused on Nigel and getting back to him. It really helped.

After it was all over and I was back in the room, Nigel stood close by while the nurses from the lab did all the bits and pieces they needed to do—hooking up monitors and such. That’s when Nigel said, “your colour’s better already!” I remember one of the nurses from the lab shot him a look, no expression or emotion, more like she wondered why he’d said that. At the time I thought she didn’t believe him, but I knew he was the only person in the whole world who could notice even the slightest change. Whatever she was thinking, I knew Nigel was right.

Later, when I looked at my phone, I saw text messages from Nigel telling me he was on his way to the hospital, and that he loved me. I didn’t get those messages before I switched my phone off, of course, but I knew, any way.

The next day, they were ready to discharge me. I met with a very nice and kind lady who told me about everything they’d done, things I needed to do, and what my new prescriptions were likely to be and why/what they’d do. The nursing staff hurried me along because they needed the bed (it was in cardiac care area), but grudgingly let me take a shower. I didn’t even have the discharge paperwork yet.

When I was ready a few minutes later (I did hurry!) a nurse kindly wheeled my bag (I wasn’t supposed to exert myself) and accompanied me to the waiting area down the hall, where Nigel had been waiting for me the day before. Nigel was in a meeting at the time, and said he’d be at the hospital as soon as he could. There was no hurry: I still didn’t have the paperwork and wasn’t supposed to leave the floor.

A little later, that nice nurse returned with the discharge paperwork. But, I had to wait some more for the person from the hospital pharmacy who, according to their procedures, had to give me the prescription and explain it all to me.

Around a half hour later, the pharmacist showed up, gave me the prescription form, and re-explained all the drugs to me. She asked me about supplements I took, which at the time was tart cherry for gout, and fish oil, and I quickly realised she wouldn’t listen to me, dismissing everything I said because there was “no evidence” any of it worked. It was my first experience with someone in the medical field who was certain that lack of proof automatically meant lack of any evidence whatsoever, and that the only things that worked came from a pharmaceutical factory. I shut down and stopped interacting, barely listening to her at all.

A little while after that, Nigel arrived, and I instantly felt better. I really don’t remember much about the day after that (apart from filling the prescriptions), but all I cared about was that I was with Nigel and he was taking me to our home where I’d see our furbabies again. I was content and happy.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel those things again, but if I do, it’ll be because Nigel helped save my life. Five years ago today was the most dramatic event up to that point, but just last December I had another probe wriggled up to my heart to (hopefully) fix my rhythm problems. That time, there was no Nigel to help me through it and to help take away my fear and anxiety, and it’s no surprise that it’s the only thing I truly wanted that day.

The image up top what I posted to my personal Facebook when sharing today’s “Memory” (click to embiggen). What I wrote today is actually a much shorter version of this post, which I wrote first.

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