Achy Breaky Heart (Part two)

You may remember that in November I had a spot of bother with my heart. My symptoms started appearing whilst in London for the Checkatrade Cup Final in March 2019.

After months of tests, a coronary angiography showed that I had two serious blockages, a 90% one in my LAD (Left Anterior Descending) and a 70% one in my right-hand artery.

I was given the option of having two stents fitted there and then or looking at the possibility of a heart by pass. The choice was mine but the cardiologist was very much pushing for the stents.

I agreed, got them fitted and was back on my feet in a couple of hours and back home the next day.

Alan Parkinson hospital

I knew there would be a period of recovery but having read up on it on Google, I wasn’t overly concerned.

I had however lost a lot of fitness due to me giving up running and the gym when the heart issues first showed up.

It was a little hard to tell what was recovery and what was a basic lack of fitness.

I returned to work after a week, which turned out to be a bit too soon, but after another week’s recovery and a week away on a writing course in Shropshire, things seemed to be getting back on track.

Returning to the office involved a fair amount of walking to and from the Metro stations and added to my lunchtime wanders, I was covering about five miles a day. On weekends I was getting out for up to eight miles.

I’d struggled at the gym and hadn’t attempted running but put that down to my loss of fitness.

Things seemed to be improving slowly then COVID-19 reared its ugly head and the world was turned upside down.

I was a little nervous of catching it and went into lockdown in early March, only leaving the house for an early morning walk of a couple of miles.

I’ll admit to being a bit lazy, I own an exercise bike and could easily have done more in the house but it was a big period of adjustment.

Fast forward a couple of months and I was struggling to do much more than the couple of miles, and the symptoms I’d had in March 2019 had returned.

Nothing too bad but in simple terms, I knew my heart was there. I could feel it all the time rather than it just ticking over in the background. Whenever it got uncomfortable, I could relieve it with a blast of my GTN (Glyceryl Trinitrate) Spray.

I still didn’t know how much was down to lack of fitness so decided to make a GP’s appointment.

Except that wasn’t so easy during lockdown.

I filled in a long online form then at the last step, it advised me to contact NHS 111.

The next morning, after an online meeting at work, I decided to contact them whilst having a cuppa.

I went through their online process and the outcome was that someone would phone me back. A nurse phoned within five minutes and was great. She went through everything and whilst I felt fine and the symptoms I’d had weren’t serious, I was going to have to get checked out at the hospital.

It was a bit of an unexpected escalation, but I live around the corner so not too much of a hardship. Except there was another escalation.

I was going to have to go by ambulance.

I protested that it was a waste of resources, and I didn’t want to be a burden, but she understandably insisted.

I necked the four Aspirins she told me to take and rushed to get changed out of my working from home clothes so I didn’t turn up looking like a total tramp.

Half an hour later the ambulance arrived. It had come all the way from Middlesbrough. They were also great but didn’t know the area and had no idea how close the hospital was.

I spent the afternoon undergoing loads of tests, including the unpleasant COVID swabs and a chest x ray, and watching a re-run of Germany v Italy 2016 Euro’s match.


They let me go advising me that I hadn’t had a heart attack which I sort of already knew. I was given some new drugs and advised to contact them again if the symptoms returned.

That weekend I was back in touch.

Again, the symptoms weren’t serious but enough to warrant me using the spray which isn’t normal.

A couple of weeks later I was back in hospital for another coronary angiography.

As I’d had one before, I knew what to expect so wasn’t nervous and was prepared for whatever outcome there was. The one outcome I wanted was for it to be sorted once and for all whether that was more stents or a heart by pass.

The angiography showed a 50% blockage in a minor artery and a small branch of the LAD was totally blocked. These both showed up on the previous scan so the cardiologist wasn’t concerned due to my condition not worsening. I had previously been told that the branch should have started working again after the stents.

He decided to increase my medication yet again and I’m now up to 14 tablets a day.

Whilst nothing ‘serious’ showing up should feel like good news, the fact that I am no further forward is frustrating. It feels like the worst outcome for me as I just want to get back to normal, as much as anything is normal these days.

I’m due for a review in three months although if anything worsens before then, I have to get in touch for them to look at it again.

I’m going to use that time to try and improve my fitness, despite the limitations in what I can do, and lose some weight.

The world may have changed since I first started struggling whilst watching Sunderland at Wembley, but my situation hasn’t.

Hopefully the next few months shows in upturn in both mine and Sunderland’s fortunes.

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