Beyond the road to SCA

Post by Mike Munson

This is the second part of Mike’s story, you can read the first part here.

A few days later I was released from hospital and having had quite a scare (possibly more so for my family as I had no memory from that whole week), I set about trying to get back to normal, although not sure what that “new normal” might be.

Not wanting this to happen again I googled advice and found the BHF website very helpful, so no dog walking or vacuuming for 12 weeks, but also what I could do a walking started on day 1.

I found out that had I lived locally to Colchester Hospital (where I was treated) they would have arranged Cardiac Rehab, but as I was “out of area” I had to sort it out myself.

Living in Mid Suffolk I found that my local gym had classes, which I eventually attended (once the nurses accepted that I was entitled to the 8 week course). I found this very helpful and progressed really well. I enjoyed the circuit session and repeated them a couple of times a week at home to supplement.

Giving back

I was so amazed at what had happened to me I started thinking about the various things to improve the stats, about fatality rates from “out of hospital Cardiac Arrests”. So a week after leaving hospital we arranged two CPR training sessions at my running club, and I was able to say a few words to the 50 or so people who turned up about how people with just a little knowledge can really save a life by just having a go!

On Tuesday evenings after coaching at my running club a small group of us have a quick beer at the local rugby club. I had already checked out to find we only had two 24/7 defibs in town and none near our playing fields (where Rugby, Football, Cricket, Running and plenty of walking takes place every day).

I spoke to the barman and said I would like to do some find raising to get one fitted on their external wall, he agreed to speak to the rugby committee and when I went back with some ideas a couple of weeks later to meet the secretary I was shown a brand-new defib fitted already. They apparently decided in view of what happened with me (&  other incidents they had heard off) they would just allocate funds immediately.

Amazing!

I then found out we had a paramedic in our running club who ran some more CPR training both for our runners and later on in the rugby club. All of these sessions where done by off duty paramedics free of charge, wonderful people!

So I finished my rehab and was passed to what they called the Phase 4 rehab instructor in our local gym. I was given a special survivors rate at the gym which was most welcome and was looking forward to gradually improving my fitness and thinking about what I could do to raise some money (& what for).

What goes around…

I noticed that a fellow survivor (Jonathon Jenkyn ) living in neighbouring Ipswich was doing his 100th parkrun since having an SCA in mid December 2017, so I contacted him and we meet on a very cold day in Ipswich and he kindly jogged (& walked) round much of the course and afterwards we chatted to BBC Radio Suffolk about our incidents and the importance of people learning CPR.

I then found out that after his SCA he had organised some CPR training for runners in the Ipswich area and two of them had worked on me!

By this time I had started to do some very gentle walk-jogging around my home. However, on Dec 18th I found an elderly man prostrate on the frozen path near my home. One bystander commented he was probably drunk, but  I kneeled down and found he was breathing and he wasn’t happy bringing called a drunk. With another man, we tried to take him home but I was too weak so we waited for the ambulance which carried him to Hospital.

A couple of hours later I went out jogging (heavily wrapped up against the cold) and within a couple of hundred yards and with no warning I completely blacked out and crashed into a brick wall. A dog walker found me and initially I didn’t realise what had happened, then it dawned on me and obviously my ICD had done it’s job and I walked slowly home.

We weren’t really sure what had happened so called my GP. I explained on the phone and apart from a bloodied face, which would have been worse if I had not had a buff & woolly hat on I was feeling OK. The GP said she would send a note to the hospital.

Indigestion?

A couple of weeks passed and by now I had started to experience upper arm and chest pains mainly when walking uphill, but also during the night, which would be relieved by a burp after a few minutes. This was actually quite scary but the GP (again making a diagnosis on the phone) suggested it was indigestion and perhaps I could take Rennies? I did try them but it didn’t seem to help.

Then after Christmas, I contacted the local hospital to see what had happened to my GP’s message. I was told it had been passed to Papworth and I should follow up with them. As I had my 6-month review coming up on Feb 16th I asked if they wanted to bring it forward and I was told no it could wait.

Later in January, I got a call from the home monitoring team at Papworth to do a download. They called me back to confirm that it had triggered on Dec 18 but nobody needed to see me at the moment as I was due to see my local cardiologist on Feb 16th. However, my chest pains and upper arm pains continued regularly (ie most days at least once).

Devils Punchbowl

On Feb 11th some friends of mine were going for some long distance running in the Surrey Hills and asked if I wanted to do a walk in the same area. As I was going to be with plenty of other people I agreed and on a cold February day we set off. Around the 15 mile mark (by a place known as the Devils Punchbowl) I felt a thump in my chest (not like being kicked in the stomach as had been suggested by a doctor to me) and I blacked out again.

This time I remembered what happened and was annoyed with myself for thinking perhaps I wouldn’t get through this time. Anyway when I came to a group had gathered around me, I explained what had happened and said I could walk now to the next checkpoint and retire. A nurse told me (in no uncertain terms) that I should stay where I was and she called 999.

It was very cold sitting on the rim of the punchbowl and the other walkers put all their spare clothes on me and put me on a bivvy bag. However, I just couldn’t stop shaking. They wanted to move me to a more sheltered spot but the control was telling them not to move me. However, they couldn’t locate our position and eventually with some not very nice words exchanged I was moved, then a 4X4 was spotted, stopped and I was loaded into the back. It seemed the ambulance was near the main road about 10 mins away. The driver was wonderful and although he didn’t know where to go eventually found the ambulance and I was rushed to the Royal Surrey.

In A&E I did try to get them to let me go home but they insisted on keeping me in. During the questioning, I was asked if I had had an angiogram and I said I didn’t recall having one and there was nothing on my discharge sheets from either Colchester or Basildon (where my ICD was fitted) about an angiogram. The following day the consultant told me he had called Basildon to confirm that I hadn’t had an angiogram which surprised him, so I was immediately fitted in and it showed 2 arteries narrowed, requiring a double bypass. A few days later I was transferred to St Georges, Tooting and had what appears to be a very neat operation.

New man

Happy now that I was being told eventually I will be like a new man, I decided to raise money for my local Hospital who were building a new cardiac unit, which would mean not everyone would have to be sent from my area all the way to Papworth. On behalf of my running club, I have been organising a series of trail runs. We charge a nominal £2 for instructions and in 2018 I arranged 21 events in Mid Suffolk. The club where very happy to support West Suffolk Hospital cardiac unit and in addition the money was shared with CRY (who would earmark cardiac tests for young people in Mid Suffolk).

One evening nurses from the hospital came to our event and ran Afib tests. Unfortunately (or should I say, fortunately) they only found one person with Afib (I have it permanently). We managed to raise £3600 during the summer, the hospital reached its target of £500,000 and the new unit was opened in November and I was lucky to be invited.

Again I self-referred for cardiac rehab and as they remembered me I got on a bit quicker although the improvement was slower this time. During the months after the surgery, I had some issues with drugs. Initially, I was told to take codeine to relieve pain, I soon found myself constipated which obviously wasn’t very pleasant and I decided I preferred pain. Then I developed a dry cough which wouldn’t go away, and it wasn’t til one of the cardiac nurses asked me how long I had had it that she said it was probably the Ramipril. When I spoke to my GP he changed it and said 6 weeks and the cough will go, so, sure enough, it took 6 weeks.

Then the statins I was on gave me leg cramps every day. Now I am on a different statin I don’t have that problem. I developed a lung infection during the summer and the GP gave me an ECG, which he didn’t like the look of. He did compare it to one done after my original SCA but before my surgery and sent me to A&E. The regular doctors in A&E weren’t too happy either thinking I had had a Heart Attack. A blood test proved I hadn’t and they just said this was now my new normal.

A couple of things on reflection when there was an emergency…

  • The NHS (and bystanders) where all brilliant and certainly I wouldn’t be here without them
  • I don’t understand why so many do not do the rehab
  • Certainly, in my case (and I am sure in most cases) it was worse for the family as I didn’t experience any of the pain (apart from post surgery)

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