Friday, March 14, 2014

Week Eleven – it could happen to me!

Forest Gump said, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll get next!

From running 8k to not being able to breath!
Following on the theme of last week’s blog “it could never happen to me” this week I have experience one of those life-changing moments that often we think “it could never happen to me” but in fact it could.

I began my week as usual and without incidents after an active weekend and my first outside run of 8k. However, by Monday afternoon I started to feel slightly unwell and with a discomfort on my chest. Within an hour this discomfort turned to sever chronicle chest pains, which lead me to ask my wife to drive me to the hospital. Anyone who knows me, like my wife does, would know that if I asked to be driven to hospital something serious is happening! As we arrived at the Emergency Room the pain in my chest increased making me feel more unconformable and unable to breath properly.

So yes, I though I was having a heart attack! This is actually the second time I have found myself in this situation. About eight years ago, as I came back home from a long trip I found myself with similar symptoms and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance with a suspected heart attack. Back then I was one of the most unfit persons I knew, weighing over 96 kilos, smoking and drinking as well as enjoying my regular hamburgers and KFC buckets. So no surprise I ended in hospital with a suspected heart attack! In fact this was my wake up call and the day I changed my habits; gave up smoking and lost weight, as well as starting my passion for running! (I still indulge myself to KFC ever so often, a man’s got to have a small sin…)

But that was then, and this was now, and as we drove to the hospital and then sat waiting to be seen by the doctors all I could think of was “why me?” I’m healthy, and exercise, why would I be having a heart attack?” and this is when I realised that life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get next…

One moment I was running 8k and enjoying life, then next I was in hospital struggling to breath and with horrendous chest pains. So it could happen to me!
I was discharged from hospital after 3 days… for now! They’ve run every test they could think of, and every time they thought it could be something, it came out negative! My heart is apparently fine, there are no chest infections affecting it, there are no blood clots anywhere, not even a sign of heart or lung issues, but yet tests still showed that something is putting pressure on my heart, hence I am finding it difficult to taken deep breaths and get pain when I walk. I have to go back to hospital next week for further test; I have been referred to the cardiologist, as the doctors are baffled as to what is causing this pressure.

The time in hospital help me think about the situation I was in, and the fact that this was the second time I was there under similar circumstances. Could this be just another “suspected” heart attack? Or was I having one? Till today I am not sure what I have, and this makes me think that anything can happen, even if you think you are healthy, anything can happen to anyone at any time and we must not take life for granted.

It was 2 am on Tuesday morning when my wife had gone back home after being told by the nurse “there’s nothing you can do now, go home and rest” (not sure these are the most re-assuring words you can say to someone who’s partner is in hospital not knowing what is wrong with them!) and I was moved to the ward where I would spend the night. The next 4 hours became crucial for my state of mind and to help me through the next few days.
That night, at points, it was comical and I began to formulate the idea for my next play. A 98 year-old woman called Margaret laid in bed shouting “Nurse” every two minutes, and as the nurse would come over and asked her what she needed, Margaret would just smile at her and say nothing. “Nurse” she would say again two minutes later and the same repeated until I was moved to another ward, an hour later. There was also Humphrey, an 86-year-old man who was brought into to the emergency room a few hours before me and had also been now moved to this ward right next to Margaret and opposite me. He added to the comedy element by suddenly getting up and started to wander around. The Nurses tried to get him back to bed with no success until a male porter came over and Humphrey welcome him with a big smile calling him David. Humphrey was of course referring to his son, not to the night porter, but this helped them to bring him back to his bed and try to get him back to sleep. Thought the biases for a good script, I was witnessing the sad reality that most of us will end up in.

One of the nurses felt sorry for me and they decided to move me to another room. Once moved to the second ward where there was more peace and quiet, between kindles being inserted into my veins and stomach and the endless questions I had been asked several time by several nurses in other wards, I took the time to reflect where I was and why I was there. The first think that came to my mind, as it did last time I was there eight years before, was what can I do better now to make sure I’m not in this situation again. And after thinking long and hard I realised this time there was little I could do to change as I already live a healthy and active live. I then turn my attention as to why I was feeling a pain and could this be something more serious. I’m the most untypical person (but perhaps at typical man) when it comes to worrying about health. My arm needs to be literally falling off for me to think I should go to the doctor and have it seen to! Yet this time, because of not having something to blame the situation on (i.e. unhealthy habits) I actually felt scared.

In one of the training classes I have taught in the past we teach participants to understand the difference between fear and anxiety as a way to help them deal with difficult situations.  The difference between them is very simple, fear has an object, in other words we are frighten of something; a barking dog, a drop from a window, a man with a gun; where as anxiety has no object and therefore cannot be frighten of anything which turns fear into anxiety; the fear of the unknown. I soon became aware of this, of the fact that I had nothing to be frightened of. I’ve not been given any bad news, I have no object to deal with or be scared of, if I was not careful my feelings could soon turn into anxiety and lose control of my situation. So I lay there instead thinking about the things that are important in life; family, friends, work, my blog and the next play I will write with two characters called Margaret and Humphrey!

On my last day in hospital as I sat there still waiting for new, my wife said, “are you not worried?” “What should I be worried about? What will be will be and there is nothing you can do about it” I replied to her in a calm voice. I of course would like to know if there is something wrong so I can deal with it, trust me, it’s not easy when you have to wait. But what I do not want is to turn my fear into anxiety as a result of not having something to fear, because anxiety can lead to other more serious issues and I am not prepared to do that.

One key learning for me this week has been the fact that in life, we can be as prepared as we like but there will always be a curved ball thrown at us, and the stronger we are, the better we can deal with this “unexpected” events which one way or another will disrupt all plans in our lives! We mustn’t let these situations turn into anxiety, which we can’t then handle.

So next time you grab a chocolate from that box and you think “what that heck was that!” remember the wise words of Forest Gump and be ready to deal with the un-expected in your life!

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