From Resus to Smiling Again – The Journey Back

Friday 19 June 2020

It’s 12 weeks to the day since receiving my Medtronic CRT-D implant. My initial arrest was back on the evening of 29 January. So I’ve been fairly isolated for much of the time, brilliantly supported by my wife and two cats. What a time to be ill – in the midst of a global pandemic!

Like many others before me, I’ll say it’s been a rollercoaster – for me, my wife, my family. Hardly seen anyone face-to-face. Thank goodness for video conferencing.

I’m normally a very positive person. I’ve had a charmed life. Worked and lived across Europe for the European Commission for 14 years (Helsinki, Brussels, Madrid, Rome, Munich…).

I started in Fleet Street as a tea boy at 17 and took 4 years to get my National Union of Journalists card. After that, I was away! Being an editor of several international magazines (still am for a global business quarterly), so I have everything to live for as I approach 70.

Yet the night of 29 January turned out to be a real game-changer.

The amazing NHS brought me back to life. Dozens of people were involved. I can remember some of their names and have been able to thank one or two personally. They are all heroes. I am so lucky.

But I have contemplated the dark side more than once on my journey so far. I do remember feeling totally at peace in Resus, just before I was shocked. I could quite happily have just closed my eyes and drifted off – but the amazing senior nurse next to me kept quietly repeating: “Keep your eyes open, Freddie. Come on, keep your eyes open for me.”

I did for a little while. Later, having had a peaceful dream, I awoke to a team of about a dozen around me, wires, machines, monitors, all sorts of machinery attached to me. Felt like a robot! And there, having come back into the room, standing by my feet, was my wife. Looking very pale and worried. I gave her a double thumbs up. I knew I was going to survive.

So, how is it that I have had such terrible dark thoughts in the middle of the long winter nights? Sometimes during the dark times after the implant, when I was bruised and battered and hardly able to sleep?

I was recommended to Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK by a good friend who happens to be a senior A&E nurse in Southend Hospital. Kate, I owe you a real debt of gratitude for recommending SCA UK. 

This group has been a safe haven for me. Even when I’ve been at my lowest, a message of fear or concern posted to the group has always brought back positive, helpful, personal messages. I thank each and every member who has supported me along the recovery path.

I’m not okay yet.

I’m gradually getting my mobility back after parts of my body just seized up through lack of sleep, lack of exercise, depression…

But I feel I’ve turned another corner this week, am getting my sense of humour back and the bond of love between me and my wife, Linda, is stronger than ever.

I feel a bit like a fraud, to be honest. Others here have suffered much worse and been fighting back for a lot longer. Yet here I am writing a blog. Can I find some words of encouragement to anyone who might suffer an SCA and survive? Some sage advice?

Don’t be on your own.

Talk to those nearest to you.

Don’t feel guilty about explaining how you feel and what you have gone through.

Communication is so important.

Use the knowledge units in SCA UK. I am still dipping in every few days and learning and understanding more.

Through the forum I have accessed an experienced counsellor and I begin with her next week, by video consultation. I’ll check back and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, stay positive, smile and get on with your new life.

You deserve it.

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