It’s a family concern

The Grandfather

It was early on a freezing morning in January 1937.

Having survived 4 years of World War 1 and several as a serving soldier, Joseph had left the Army in 1931. He settled with his wife and four children in Surrey, the eldest was 17, the youngest 9.

Today, aged 43, he was cycling to work for 3 and a half miles along country lanes white with frost and snow, a journey he had done many times before.

Reaching the gates to the depot he slowed but started to sway. A blackness descended upon him and he fell from his bike and hit the floor.

Colleagues ran to help him and one got on his own bike and cycled the few miles along a canal towpath to the nearest village with a doctor.

By the time they returned it was too late.

The following day his eldest son cycled to the nearest town to register his father’s death.

No support, financial or otherwise, apart from their family and community.

Straight back to work and school, no fuss and bother.

It was just the way it was done.

The Father

Fast forward 31 years.

Following 6 years away serving in North Africa, Italy and Germany in WW2, that same son settled down in Surrey and by 1968 had 4 children and a thriving business.

On Boxing Day the whole family, children aged 17 to 9, went up to London on the train. It was a freezing cold day that set the Christmas lights adorning Oxford Street off perfectly.

By 9 o’clock that evening he had died, aged 48, struck down as his father had been.

The following day his eldest daughter went to tell his Mother the awful news. Totally understanding, her response was…

“How’s your Mother?”

No support, financial or otherwise, apart from their family and community.

Straight back to work and school, no fuss or bother.

It was just the way it was done.

The Siblings

In the ensuing years, it became clear that the patriarchal side of the family had heart problems, with other siblings dying before they were 60. His children, consciously or not, all married and had children at a young age.

I remember vowing to myself that mine would be 20 before I left them on their own.

Many years passed uneventfully until 2013, when my youngest sister died, aged 58, of a cardiac arrest caused by a myocardial infarction (heart attack), and my brother had an emergency double bypass, aged 56.

It wasn’t just shocking but brought home forcefully the knowledge that we had carried and buried deep in our psyche for the past decades, having had no counselling or other support.

Thankfully my brother survived, and that’s it we thought, we 3 are creeping over 60 and certainly over 43, we’ve made it.

The Author

That is, until the 5th November 2016, in the middle of moving house, when yours truly, aged 65, managed to outdo Guy Fawkes by having an SCA.

Thanks to a clued-up husband, modern methods of CPR, paramedics, defibrillators and the NHS response I lived to tell the tale.

My brother calls me “the one that dodged the bullet”, a bit rich coming from him I think!

In 2019, again in the midst of moving, I followed up the SCA with another MI and now have 5 stents in the right coronary artery (RCA) and 4 in the left anterior descending (LAD).

At a mean cost of £529 (NICE) just for 1 stent, never mind the in-hospital procedures, I’m probably worth more now than at any time in my life!

Now I just worry for my children and grandchildren…

I know you can’t change the past, but those who went before me were never given the opportunities that I have had, even though, as Gareth says, we know it’s not easy surviving an SCA for the survivors or for their families.

The one thing I would change is the lack of official support for many of us post-SCA.

It is not just a necessity, but vital and seems not to have changed a great deal!

Finding the SCA UK group on Facebook in 2018 was a life-saver for me and mine and although I wouldn’t choose, because of circumstances, to be a part of it, I can never fully express what it means to me.

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