Four Not Out

It seems only last week I was writing a piece on the 3rd anniversary of my “minor” cardiac incident and referring to Paul Swindell’s doorstop post. And now, I am at the fourth anniversary, slightly older, slightly thinner, slightly greyer, and, possibly, slightly wiser.

I am not sure that another year has given me any more insight into surviving cardiac-arrest or dealing with the aftermath. I view my life now as pretty much back to normal interspersed with the odd hospital visit and check-up (not arrest related but definitely cardiac related).

It wasn’t always so, the first year post-resuscitation was a struggle psychologically, as I think, it is, pretty much for everyone. So if I were to offer any advice I would say that things can improve and recovery can be made, although this comes from the perspective of someone who didn’t really suffer very much because of his arrest and I do appreciate that, for some people, some families, the “recovery” can be slow or non-existent.

I have questioned, over and over, what happened to me and why and how I survived and I can only rationalise it as the result of randomness: the chain of random events that lead to my arrest, the chain of random events that lead to me surviving. My faith in a god or supernatural being has not been shaken or diminished, as I never had any faith in the first place, nor do I now. So I feel intellectually satisfied that my world-view has remained intact. I have a sanguine and very comforting view of my life: I didn’t exist for the first 14 billion years of the universe, and, pretty soon, I won’t exist again (although I almost “ducked out” early) so I feel a joy, every day, of simply being here and being alive. And, if there is anyone to praise for being alive, it is not some non-existent deity, it is those people who worked so hard in July 2016 to ensure that I remained here.

I had a brush with Corona in March, not something I would recommend as I did face the irony of actually considering the fact that, although I may have dodged the bullet of cardiac-arrest, I was going to succumb to Covid-19!

My life has definitely changed from pre-arrest, in fact, I do actually feel as if the “old David” died and a “new David” replaced him, even though this appears to be contradictory. My life has changed direction slightly, I am marginally more “famous” than before as my arrest was captured on CCTV (looking very fat in a pair of swimming trunks) which has proved useful for training and raising awareness (of cardiac-arrest and CPR, not obesity), I have given talks about my experience and I have become an ambulance service Community First Responder (CFR) and have paid back the compliment of surviving by helping to resuscitate more than one person in cardiac-arrest. I also feel I have made a contribution to society by serving people as a CFR during the current pandemic (via several layers of PPE).

Beyond this, I am not sure I can offer any great insight or sage-words, especially during this rather weird time of Corona semi-lockdown.

So, in cricket parlance….I’m four, not out.

My Coronavirus (COVID-19) experience with Dr Tom Keeble

In episode #39, Paul talks with LACA regular consultant cardiologist Dr Tom Keeble.

Dr Keeble talks about the current COVID-19 pandemic including his personal experiences as both a doctor treating patients and as someone who has has a suspected case of the disease. He also answers some questions from members of SCA UK on this topic.

Video about life after cardiac arrest features Basildon Hospital ...

Available to listen on the link below or Spotify, Apple , Google, YouTube and your favourite podcast player.

If you enjoyed this podcast please do leave a positive review on Apple or other podcast providers as it helps us to spread the word.

Presented and edited by Paul Swindell.

Recorded April 2020. 

A disrupted normality

I’ve been deliberating on what to write for the SCA UK blog for some time now. I’ve written stuff and binned it, but I feel now is the time to put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard.

Paul and I are almost 6 years on from the fated day of his sudden cardiac arrest and I feel that for several reasons I should start to share my part of the journey.

  • I have felt and experienced things others will be going through now, and if I can normalise that for someone, I might be able to make someone else’s journey just that little bit easier.
  • The other reason is personal. I’m a great believer that we only have a capacity for so much stuff in our heads and it’s about time I allowed my poor brain to put some of this stuff down.

So here we are, my first effort.

I could start by telling you my journey, and how I came to be here, but many will know of my story, as it’s so closely intertwined with Paul’s, which many of you would have heard already.

One day, I will tell you my version, but today I want to talk about the current situation in this world of ours and how it’s making me feel, and why it compelled me to start writing this. After you’ve read it, I’d love to know if it resonates with you.

The fear of shopping

I’m normally a pretty positive, calm, down to earth person and definitely more of a glass half full, than a glass half empty. However, entering supermarkets this past few weeks has most definitely set me on edge. I can feel my anxiety levels rising, not just in the shop, but beyond.

Of course, it’s not just shopping, it’s the news too… the feeling of impending doom. 

We all know how those disaster movies end.

How can you not get caught up in it?

I think it’s the feeling of no longer understanding the world, or what this means for any of us.  Everything that used to make sense no longer does.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Last week I spoke to a friend on the phone, she was due to come over (pre-lockdown) but wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good idea. We spoke about our supermarket shopping experiences and she said she felt like crying when she came out of the store, but couldn’t understand why.

Déjà vu

This got me thinking…

I’ve been here before, these thoughts, these fears, in this situation… only last time it was a whole lot worse.

Nearly 6 years ago now I had a very seemingly similar situation.

When I’d been given some more information about Paul’s condition after finding him and delivering CPR, nothing was as it was supposed to be. My world had been turned upside down. One minute I had a healthy husband, the next he was fighting for his life.  This, the person I turned to when I wasn’t sure what to do, and here he was still and seemingly lifeless in a coma. 

Would I ever get to speak to him again?

Tell him I love him?

So many things still to do together, so many things left unsaid.

I had no idea of how things would pan out, what it meant to us as a family, either financially, or physically in terms of Pauls wellbeing. The Doctors said they couldn’t promise he would even know who I was, or how his brain had been affected.

So many questions…

What to tell the children? 

How to tell his parents, his family? 

What would our future look like?

Would I have a husband, the boys a dad? 

What to think, and what to do for the best?

And I think this is why people are panicking so much in the current crisis. They are scared, they don’t fully understand the situation, and what it means for them. I can certainly relate to this. 

I know in the past I completely went into overdrive, getting a new job, signing up to loads of training courses, learning how to run a business… I needed to keep myself busy, to be doing something to protect my family… but on reflection was it the right thing to do?

For me, the difference is, we are in this one together.  Everyone has their take on the situation.  We have an understanding, of how each other are feeling.   We can talk to each other with that true understanding, of just getting it… even in isolation, we are not truly alone.

Half Full

When we come out the other side of this, and we will remember the glass half full. Each and every one of us will be changed, for going through this situation. The same as each and every one of us who has saved a life, or almost lost a loved one is changed. How can you not be changed, when the unthinkable has happened. Something that you didn’t think possible, and would not have predicted ever.

It will make us re-evaluate, what the important things are in our life. The small things that you thought were so very important, suddenly seem insignificant. The arguments about someone not doing something, just the way you want it, suddenly seem insignificant. On the grand scale of things, they just don’t matter, any more.

These days I find myself much more open-minded as to what is possible and that’s a positive. I try to achieve things now, even though I might not reach the end goal. I try not to sweat the small stuff, although sometimes it is a challenge.

I’ve seen the worse that can happen and I’m sure many of you have too.

And, of course, it will come to us all at some point. 

So, what is the take-home?

Today, I try to live my life to the full, looking for the positives, keeping my glass half full.

Trying not to sweat the small stuff and if I can help someone else along the way, I will happily do that too.

Be safe, be happy, be kind*

Tracy Swindell

*And just as an aside… being kind is proven to be as good for the giver, as it is for the receiver, as it raises oxytocin’s (listen to Dr Chatterjee’s podcast with David Hamilton)

Feature image by Prawny from Pixabay