Never Forget

It’s a little over 3 years since my husband had his SCA. I often say to him that I wish I could share with him the video that runs in my head whenever I think about the events of that night. It was just another day and another night. Unremarkable. We were excited because we were going away to Spain the next day on a tennis holiday. My clothes for traveling were hanging up on the door and our suitcases were packed. I never thought that there might not be a tomorrow. It never occurred to me that what was about to happen, would ever happen, especially in the comfort & safety of our home.

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I woke up at around 0300 hours to hear him making incomprehensible sounds. Initially I thought he was having a nightmare, but he didn’t respond to the usual prodding. By the time I had got out of bed and turned on the light, his face was flat in the pillow and he had no pulse. I checked 3 times. Nothing. Nada. I remember saying out loud “you’ve got to be joking”

I called 999 turned him on his back and started CPR with vengeance. He was not going to leave me. I became angry with him because we were meant to be going on holiday. This wasn’t part of our plans. I was swearing at him as I was doing CPR, shouting at him too – he wasn’t going to leave me.

The paramedics arrived and took control, however as I watched I believed I had a golden thread that went directly to him, and this thread was going to pull him back to life. After each shock I spoke to him “come on, breathe. you can do it” and I tugged on this imaginary thread. It took at least 6 shocks before he responded. But he did. Sinus rhythm and finally down the steep stairs, in to the ambulance and off to hospital. I was so relieved. So grateful.

The next 6 days were spent in ITU and then another 5 weeks in hospital. A slow but steady recovery for him. For me a focus on feeding him up and doing everything I could to get him better. Fighting for the right care in the right place, never wavering from my belief that he would get better.

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I found myself being uber protective, not wanting to leave him, constantly worried that something would happen if I wasn’t around. It took me a very long time to feel totally content going out and leaving him. To this day if I am away over night I am not happy until I have heard his voice in the morning, to know he is alive and well. Ridiculous, but true.

So three years down the line the video in my head still replays that night. It was as if I was having an out of body experience, others playing the roles of him and I. But it was real and a catalyst for so much that is good in our lives today. I cannot thank the paramedics enough. Particularly the lead paramedic who has since told us that he had never experienced a cheerleader at a resuscitation before! He also told us how he was thinking about the words he would use to tell me that my husband was not coming back, when out of the corner of his eye he saw a flicker on the screen. He gave one more shock. The shock that thankfully brought my husband back to life.

It’s been a very challenging 3 years in so many ways, but here we are now having sold everything we own in the UK, having traveled half way across the world to live on & sail our new home, a beautiful catamaran.

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I cannot turn off the video in my head, I cannot turn off the emotions associated with the events of that night, it’s always there to remind me. However every morning when I wake up I look at my wonderful husband and I am grateful for the life that we have. I try to be mindful and drink in everything I see, everything I experience and everything I do, because I know that there may not be a tomorrow.

In the long run

Guest post by Councillor Ryk Downes

Friday January 22nd 2016 started out as any other day. It was day 114 of my ‘run every day’ streak running challenge where I had committed to running a minimum of 10K a day, every day. My body had adapted well and had got used to my daily 50-60-minute run. Only a few weeks earlier I had climbed Ben Nevis on New Year’s Eve in the snow, with my wife Bev and followed up with a 10K run when I got back down. On New Year’s Day I celebrated with a solo 19 mile run around Loch Leven. The week before I had run my fastest 10K and posted on Facebook that I had never felt fitter.

I had planned to run a half marathon that lunchtime, but got delayed so opted for a 10.5 mile run. All was going well the weather was good. I was really enjoying my run. The next thing I knew I woke up in intensive care three days later! I kept asking my family who were around my bed what had happened, all I could think of was that I had been hit by a car. The truth was scarier.
An artery leading into my heart had blocked due an hereditary condition. This had caused a heart attack and cardiac arrest due to no blood getting onto my heart. This had happened just 30 seconds from home. If I had reached home no one was there and I would not be here today. Thankfully a passerby saw me fall and started CPR Others helped and a defibrillator from the nearby post office appeared. It took four people 20 minutes and the defibrillator to bring me back to life. I stopped breathing 3 times at the scene and again in the air ambulance on the way to hospital. I was a very lucky person to survive. There were no warning signs at all, my cholesterol at the time of the heart attack was a mere 3.9. My arteries were in a very bad way though and I required a triple bypass which was performed in February.

My surgeon joked and said he would only operate if I promised to get back to long distance running. That was music to my ears. I had completed several Ultras in the past, but had to retire after 51 miles of the 2015 Hardmoors 60 so I had unfinished business and even in my hospital bed I knew that was my goal. My family were not too sure at this stage but within 24 hours of coming out of Intensive Care after the operation I had managed to climb a flight of stairs. I went home 4 days after the bypass and a week later went for a gentle walk. I steadily built this up until I started to jog then run again. I had a place in the Leeds Half Marathon and that was my first goal. I managed to complete it with a defibrillator on my back (to raise awareness of their benefits and to money to buy a further three). I ran alongside Bev and my eldest daughter Sherri.

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I continued to train most days, but because Bev understandably did not like me running alone anymore I joined a running club, the furthest I managed to run for the next 4 months was a mere 10 miles – once. I thus entered the Hardmoors Princess ‘One-in-the-Middle’ 17.5 miles trail run just to check my stamina a fortnight before the Hardmoors 60 and had a really good run so all was set for my re-entry into the ultra-running scene just 7 months after my triple bypass.

So the day finally arrived and I was very nervous, but also excited. Could I actually achieve after a bypass what I failed to achieve before? Bev was there as my support 63 miles and 11500 feet of climb along the Cleveland Way from Guisborough to Filey. The target was to complete the race in under 18 hours. On the way to Runswick Bay I started to suffer, it was far warmer than forecast, my middle left toe felt broken (I wear orthotics due to a foot condition) and my calves were starting to ache. I was only 45 minutes within the cut off so really up against it. I nearly quit at that point only 21 miles in, but thought I would give it one more stage so that I had at least run further than a marathon.

On the way to the next checkpoint I met another runner, Louise, who was to stay with me until the final stage. She encouraged me to start running again and at each following checkpoint we clawed more and more time back. However, as we left Scalby Mills, where I retired last year, my left leg finally gave up and was so painful I could hardly move. I persuaded Louise to carry on without me and called Bev. I was in tears and reluctantly admitting defeat. Bev had other ideas and gave my leg a deep massage. In conjunction with painkillers I was on my way again, but only made the last checkpoint by 5 minutes, leaving me 3 hours 5 minutes to do the last 9 miles through woods and along the coast from Scarborough to Filey in the dark, most of it past midnight and totally alone. I managed to get running again for 5 of those miles before my leg went again with a mile to go.

I managed to get to the finish with just seven minutes to spare on my watch. It was very much a combined effort and something I would not have been able to complete on my own without Louise and Bev. My heart was fine and at no point gave me any cause for concern. My big problem was my calves and shin splints, very unusual for me. After 4 hours sleep I got up for church the next day feeling fine, no blisters and no after effects. A big thank you to everyone who helped me achieve this amazing feat. I’m back!
I now want to give something back to the sport I love so much and have launched the Punk Panther Ultra Marathon Series. Six ultra-marathons all starting from Otley, West Yorkshire in 2017.

Visit www.punkpanther.co.uk for details.

A great day to be alive!

The journey of recovery from an SCA is a tough winding one that will undoubtedly have many ups and downs, and sometimes it worth just taking a moment to reflect on those peaks when they happen.

With my son I was attending a new local event on the Park Run schedule – Hadleigh Park – which was the stunning venue of the 2012 Olympic Mountain biking events.

Today was the inaugral event and on this cool October morning the sun gods gave their blessing with a gloriously sunny display.

There was a buzz of excitement in the air as my son and many others were tackling the tough course.   The dogs doing the event were hyped up too  and even the local cows were interested and taking heed of the warning signs!

Certainly today was one of the those days that makes you realise it’s a great to be alive!

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