Friday, April 5th, 2019, began like any other. I was 61. My wife has had MS for 38 years and is wheelchair-bound, and I work from home. Friday is the day our cleaner comes, and I often bake something, as much for therapeutic reasons as anything else. That day, I decided to bake a Madeira cake.
My brother had been harping on to me for weeks to make one for him.What spurred me on to bake one that day remains a mystery!
I took delivery of a new rise recliner chair, made lunch for the three of us, and settled down into my chair to enjoy the sandwich.
I did not have a bite.
Two things happened at the same time.
Sitting in my chair, I went into cardiac arrest…
…and the exact second that happened, my brother, whom I had messaged a short time before to tell him to come and collect his Madeira cake, walked in through the front door!
He took one look at me, slapped me a couple of times to check I was not taking the Michael, then immediately threw me out of the chair onto the floor and being a trained first aider, began CPR.
His wife dialled 999 at 12:54.
Following the arrival of both the Paramedic crew and specialist Doctor, 7 shocks and 5 doses of Adrenalin & Amidarone, ROSC was timed at 13:13.
Within seconds, I arrested a second time, with ROSC at 13:36.
After phoning 999, my sister-in-law rang my two sons, who both arrived with the ambulance crew. Our cleaner took care of my wife, trying to shield her from having to look at me as they worked on me.
My two sons were able to watch the proceedings, and all I can think of subsequently was how difficult it must have been for them to look at their dad.
The upshot was I transferred from the emergency hospital to another and had a single stent fitted. Like many others, I had a narrowing of an artery, which was corrected by a simple stent operation. I was put into an induced coma with my blood being cooled.
I was taken off life support and out of the coma on Sunday evening and apparently nursed by a young chap I had coached at my local rugby club for 6 years!
My family had been told that when coming out of the coma, they would not know if I would be impaired or absolutely fine. Seemingly my family were around me on the Monday morning, when a young physio came in, since I had not been out of bed, and said, “come on David, let us go for a little walk and see how things are.”
I replied, “Look at me,” threw the bedclothes off, said, “I can do star jumps,” and proceeded to!
I was transferred to another hospital on Tuesday, 9th April, where I spent a week or so. I did not understand what had happened or why I was there. When you are ill, you lose all ability to rationalise things.
All I wanted to do was get back home to look after my wife.
On Thursday, my consultant came to see me, and I asked about being released. He said to me, “You should not be here.”
I agreed and said, “I wanted to go home,” to which he repied, no, you do not follow me.
“YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE!”
He said he would come back to see me after the weekend, and if I could remember his name, that would be a good start. When he left, I wrote his name down, but by the time my pen lifted from the paper, it had gone.
So, I logged onto the hospital website, downloaded a picture, created a screensaver and wrote his name across it and thought when he came back, I would cheat!
He did not turn up!
On Tuesday, one of his co-workers came. I asked what I needed to do to be released and was told I could take a MOCA test and needed to score 26 out of 30.
I sat it and somehow scored 28.
I had failed to answer 2 questions as opposed to answering and getting them wrong. Since I had completed the task set, even though the Doctor was not happy, I was allowed home!
All in, it was a very humbling experience.
Over time, I realised that without the love and support of my family, things might have been very different.
It took me many months to come to terms with what had happened.
To understand the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest.
To learn to live with some memory issues.
To be forced into immediate retirement.
For 25 years, I had given very detailed financial advice, and to be flatly turned down by my professional indemnity insurers as being too high a risk was a body blow.
But, two years on, I am happy with my lot.
I continue to bake cakes on Fridays and still make Madeira cakes.
As a parting thought, some unanswerable questions are…
Why did I choose to bake a Madeira cake for my brother that morning?
Why did he turn up at precisely the second he did?
Why did the doctor continue to work on and on and on, well past the normal time limit of 20 minutes?
I might never know the answer to these questions.
When people say to me, well, it is obvious…
…God did not want you on that time and date.
I reply, well, what happens if he actually did want me but my brother came along and interrupted?
Once released from hospital, I slotted back into daily routine of caring for my wife. I found that I became exceptionally tired, akin to discharging my batteries very quickly.
Most of our garden is paved except for a small patch around 6 feet by 6 feet that has had the paving bricks removed to make a small soil patch where we can grow lovely colourful plants directly into the ground.
If I spent 10 minutes tending to it, I would have to lie down!
I also found that almost every day, I had to have an afternoon nap for 30 to 60 minutes.
The next big change I discovered was short-term memory problems.
I could ask you if you wanted a cup of tea and happily go and make a cup of coffee.
It also made having a conversation difficult at times.
I also found I had chunks of memory missing.
At times I read incessantly.
I like to select an author or series of books and read them in order. An easy read for me is the Lee Childs character Jack Reacher. He releases a new book every year and there must be 15 to 20 in the series.
I have read them all before, but decided to do it again.
I found that the first 10 or so in the series, I was familiar with the story but did not know what happened next.
For the next 5 or 6 books, it was as if I had never read them before.
The storylines were new to me.
The last few were similar to the first.
I had an inkling, but no more.
…This transfers into everyday life.
I have chunks of my life that I cannot recall, yet if someone jogs my memory, if I am lucky, the thought returns, whilst at other times, nothing.
Whilst all this was going on, I found it increasingly difficult to control my temper. I would become angry at the most ridiculous of things at the drop of a hat, and always directed against my poor wife.
Eventually, this behaviour was pointed out to me, and after a period of reflection, I decided to get help from a Psychiatrist who I knew. We had six sessions, and it was enlightening.
Did it fix my problems?
I still become angry far too easily, but usually, I recognise what I am doing (but not every time) and manage to correct myself.
I have had my fair share of illness since 2017 and it allows me to realise that unless you as an individual have been ill, you cannot possibly imagine what it is like!
We do not want sympathy, but at times, life does seem an uphill struggle.
How do I personally cope?
…the sun is going to rise tomorrow regardless of how I feel, so the choice is hide or meet it head-on!
Thank you for allowing me to unburden myself.
Ed: Republished with permission from David’s blog