Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Just over a month ago I had a triple coronary bypass operation and am currently signed off work for several more weeks as I recover. This all happened very quickly, as a result of experiencing some chest pain in April and attending the doctor to discuss.
An initial diagnosis of angina, followed by an ECG and blood tests, quickly led to a consultation with a cardiologist, an exploratory angiograph (x-ray of my heart) and revelation of the fact that not only had I had a heart attack late last year (whilst Mandy and I were in the throes of a very stressful house move) resulting in a completely blocked coronary artery, but also that two other arteries were in the process of closing up due to coronary heart disease and my heart was now struggling to function adequately, hence the chest pain.
Needless to say, and on the advice of my cardiologist that I was otherwise sufficiently healthy and 'an ideal candidate', two days later I was under the knife in Southampton, blocked arteries bypassed with re-directed chest arteries and veins 'harvested' from my legs and, within the week, was despatched home for a three month recovery period.
This was a huge shock, not only to me, but to Mandy, recently started a new job, and to my children, both of whom were in the final stages of their University year work - Tash completing her Finals and Sam completing his Year 1 work. With very little time for reflection or for debate, my life was turned upside down and inside out. All my attention was now focussed on 'getting better', a slow process initially whilst my body was effectively in post-traumatic shock from very invasive surgery and it's only in the time that I have been given at home, as my body heals, that I have slowly started to reflect on the emotional and psychological impacts.
I'm fortunate that I experienced angina symptoms sufficiently noticeable to discuss with Mandy and, on her insistence, seek immediate medical advice. I'm equally fortunate that things moved swiftly thereafter (within two weeks, I had the procedure) and that - apparently - everything has gone well. I'm healing physically. My chest scar and my leg scars are healing and easing and my mobility and stamina is increasing.
But my sense of self has been fundamentally challenged. What I thought was normal, may not have been normal. I have been living and operating in my family, social, work and virtual lives with a ticking bomb in my chest. That may have been having far more profound psychological, emotional and physical impacts - and for longer - than I, my family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues may have realised. It's only now, a month later, that I am starting to 'allow' myself to consider these things and to reflect on what they mean for us now and in the future. Much reflection and possibly some talking therapy to come. What's important? What's not so important? What does the 25 years that I've been given by this operation look like? How shall I/we spend that time? What does work and retirement look like now?
We have much to be joyful about. I'm still here! Tash achieved a 2:1 BA in Interior Architecture & Design and graduates in late July, before starting her new job in August. Sam got straight B's throughout his Foundation Year and is guaranteed a place on the BA Film Production course at UCA in Farnham. Mandy is enjoying her new job in Brighton. Both Mandy and I turn 60 this year and it is also our 30th Wedding Anniversary in August.
Previous readers may remember I blogged nearly four years ago about turning 56 and outliving my Father who died just after his 56th Birthday ("Age - Appropriate"). I said then that I had been gifted the time he never got and that I was going to make the most of it. Now, three years and one coronary bypass later, I have been given another gift. I do not intend to squander it.
PS: I could not have got through the last 5 weeks, nor will I get through the months to come, without the love, support, friendship and good wishes of many, many people, not least my darling wife Mandy and my two fantastic children, Natasha and Samuel. I love them and owe them everything, but my heartfelt thanks go out to you all.