A Lifesaver


I clearly enjoyed last week's overnight stay in hospital so much, that I went back for another one on Sunday. On this occasion, however, it was far from pre-planned.

I've been doing really well with my post-operative recovery and have ditched the pain killers. I've taken a peep at the surgical wounds and they are healing splendidly on the outside at least. After a wave of nausea and diarrhoea kept me awake overnight on Saturday, I was feeling generally fine if a little fatigued by Sunday morning and went back to bed to catch up on missed sleep.

When I awoke my heart was pounding; so much so that I mentioned it to the youngest when we chatted, with me dismissing it as simply a sign of its strength. An hour later, sitting reading, I was aware of that heart beat again and for a moment felt whoozy. I got up and went slowly downstairs, pausing just inside the kitchen door where the same thing happened and I moved to sit down. I could feel my heart racing and out of interest decided to upload the data from the fitbit on my wrist and check the dashboard information given concerning heart rate. I could hardly believe it, my heart was performing at peak rate and all I was doing was sitting on a chair.

Obviously I thought this warranted further investigation and when my call to 111 had still not been dealt with after a lapse of 17 minutes, switched to its online service and after working my way through the various questions posed ended up being told that it was a medical emergency and I needed to phone 999 for an ambulance. Despite the 2 momentary periods of faint-headedness, I truly felt asymptomatic and, although fearing I might be accused of wasting the emergency services' time, duly called as advised.

I'd like to think that I must have downplayed my symptoms or alternatively sounded too well, as the responder clearly hadn't expected me to indicate that I was the patient rather than Mister E who by this time was pacing the room with his own anxiety attack. In any event I was told that before an ambulance could be called somebody would have to ring me back but that this would take up to 90 minutes. Good job it can't be serious, I thought to myself as we agreed that I would instead make my own way to the Urgent Treatment Centre at the hospital I had been discharged from on Friday. It seemed to make sense when these things had to be related.

Mister E got me there in prompt time but because of these darned Covid restrictions wasn't allowed in and was told to return home. An hour or so later he got a call: "Your wife is being transferred by ambulance to the Accident and Emergency Unit at the much larger linked hospital some 25 miles away. Her situation is complicated and she needs the resources available there"

Now it's 36 years since I was last conveyed to a hospital by amblance and I can honestly say they have got neither warmer nor more comfortable, although an increase in potholes on the road undoubtedly added to  the bumpiness. The ambulance crew were fantastic and seemed rather concerned about my condition, checking every few minutes that I really felt no pain or breathing restrictions. They explained that the previous night they had to wait for 5 hours with a patient in the carpark and although the medical staff would come out and check on me they were going to try to ensure that a bed was ready and waiting for me on arrival. I assure you when I heard the call, I thought she was exaggerating my predicament; on reflection if I'd been knowledgeable enough about my condition for my own 999 call, I might have been 2 hours ahead with treatment.

Yes, on arrival the ambulance trollies were all the way down the corridor, but it seems there are some cases that necessitate queue jumping and mine was apparently one of them. I felt such a fraud. 

The rest of the night played out as if I had a bit part in the TV drama Casualty, squeezed in an emergency bay between CPR on my right and a tracheotomy to my left (not that I could see either but bad enough that once those situations had resolved one doctor did ask if I needed somebody to come and counsel me). On my own part, in for a penny, in for a pound, I didn't just go and produce a positive test for Covid! The doctor explained that this would fit with the nausea and diarrhoea that morning as well as my rapid heart rate, and whilst I otherwise appeared to be unaffected anything was possible with this dreadful disesase.

So there I was lying on the trolley, drips in my arm and wired up to a heart monitor, tears in my eyes thinking that maybe my time had come. That high heart rate, rarely dropping below 180 beats per minute and for long periods over 200, just kept pounding and pounding, or so the monitor said as I remained otherwise unaware.

Suddenly, however, there was hope; the PCR and other tests sent for analysis came back and no abnormalities could be detected, least of all Covid. Around 1.30 am and over 10 hours after the whole heart racing thing had started, the doctor explained that as it clearly wasn't coming down with the fluids they were going to try me with some medication.

I must have been really sensitive to that medication because she had only just got it from the cupboard when I felt a tightening of my chest, saw my heart beat hit 247 followed by my blood pressure dropping through the floor and the doctor's mouth open. Everything moved into slow motion and then ..my heart rate flipped back into a normal rhythm.

One hour later I was sitting up in an exhausted emergency department, triumphantly drinking a mug of tea and munching on the only sustenance a nurse could find; a ham sandwich on white bread; not my usual fare but I was hungry and alive!

Ultimately I was transferred to a ward in the Trauma Unit. It was not the pleasant atmosphere of our local hospital 3 nights before and whilst the staff were wonderful, it is a sad state of affairs when you witness the elderly so confused by their condition and whereabouts that one could not understand that the beeper on her drip was alarming only because she was not keeping her arm straight, whilst another thrashed about wildly pretending to be a cat, noises and all.

I've been lucky. The post surgery anti-coagulants clearly helped diminish the risk of clotting and without that fitbit reading I'd never have thought there was a need for emergency treatment and monitoring. "Smart watches are life savers," two doctors told me that night. Based on their advice and my own experience, whilst you may feel that exercise accessories are the preserve of the young, I would recommend everyone, retired and all, to wear a fitness watch; you don't know when it might tell you something really useful and maybe even help save your life.




Cathy said…
Oh dear it never rains but it pours for you. That was quite a scare you gave you unknowingly gave yourself.
Interesting what the medics said about the miniature computer masquerading as a watch. I’ll keep that in mind in case anyone asks me what I’d like as gift.
Caree Risover said…
Well it’s certainly put last week’s surgery in the shade!
Treaders said…
Oh my word, 247 beats per minute!!!!!!! I'm so sorry you had to go through all that but, as you say, thank God for your fitbit!
Mona McGinnis said…
Amen that everything turned out ok in the end. Good on you for getting yourself to the hospital.
Caree Risover said…
The strange thing is that between 180 and 210 I wasn’t really aware of anything but for those few seconds in the 240’s - ouch! As you say Treaders if it hadn’t been for the Fitbit I wouldn’t even have been in the right place for it to happen. As for getting myself to the hospital, Mona, for hours I couldn’t understand why I was being dealt with so seriously, when I felt fine and had honestly hesitated momentarily as to whether I should ring 999 in the first place.
Marksgran said…
Do they know what caused it to happen? How awful for you. You'll have got a real fright. I am now on looking at smart watches as we speak! I hope you recover well from this and the other! x
Caree Risover said…
Not yet, Marksgran - several ideas have been floated but I’m to have more tests and monitoring plus I’ve been told that if it proves not to be an ongoing issue, I might never know. As for a fright, let’s describe it as the knocking of confidence in my own immortality!
Jeanette Lewis said…
Thank goodness for your Fitbit! Now I know why it is rarely off my wrist. Take care of yourself!
Caree Risover said…
Thanks Jeanette, my difficulty now is in seeking to refrain from constantly checking the data gathered by my Fitbit.
Jo said…
Oh my goodness! What a shock. Your previous story of what took you to into hospital for your surgery could have been written by me but thankfully all seemed to stop before the dreaded op! Late menopause is definitely something I didn’t expect. Hope all stays well with you and I’m off to charge my �� watch as we speak!
Caree Risover said…
Ah Jo, glad you got the good fortune that didn’t reach me before patience ran out and whilst there is no obvious connection with the heart rate, I certainly recommend keeping the Fitbit full of juice at all times.
Jennyff said…
I don’t think I can ditch the beautiful Rolex watch my husband bought me for my 40th birthday, 33 years ago. Maybe if the need arises I can use the second hand to check my pulse, otherwise if the worst happens you can say it told her she didn’t listen. Seriously though you were very fortunate and sensible, take care snd be well.
Caree Risover said…
Oh Jennyff I would never say that. Mind I am one of the few people that I know who wears a watch on both wrists! (And it's going to stay that way)
Wow, glad you’re ok but that experience sounds frightening. Is there something you can do to keep it from happening again? Was there a diagnosis? Not something to mess with. Thank goodness for your Fitbit!!
Caree Risover said…
Thanks, Linda. I’m undergoing some monitoring but I have been told I may never know the cause and (fingers crossed) never have another episode. Explanations range from COVID-19 (ignoring the negative PCR), through the impact of a mix of medication (none of which were considered likely) and stress/anxiety (in which case surely it would have happened before the op not after) to a sudden drop in my oestrogen levels (albeit they have been gradually eroding for a long time). Meanwhile I’ve been told to continue as normal although doing anything again for the first time inevitably makes me nervous. Ultimately I’ve convinced myself that I must have a really strong heart to have encountered that with hopefully no ill-effects.

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