Monday, 6 February 2012

Flashback: Harefield 2000

Flashback Harefield 2000: I am going to have an operation to have an event recorder implanted near my heart to hopefully record what is happening when I faint. I have been having random faints since Rose was born and many tests later we still cannot get to the bottom of it. Most other patients on this ward have clearly been ill and as I move round to various parts of the hospital for ECGs tests etc. I think how I feel a complete fraud and timewaster as I am so fit and well. They want take me down to theatre in a wheelcahir and I refuse. There is a priest on the ward blessing the sick and again I feel a fraud, stiffling my giggling fit when its my turn to be blessed! Years later I'm to reflect on this situation and think 'can you eat your thoughts like you can your words!'

My fainting started about a year after my youngest child, Rose, was born, about sixteen years or so ago at the date of writing this. I went to see my GP after fainting twice after running upstairs and getting out of bed. She advised my blood pressure was quite low, but that was healthy and that I should just stop and think before I jump up from sitting down too quickly or decide to run upstairs, advising that I should do it more slowly and just take my time. This I did, but then I fainted when I was helping Sarah's class on a school trip, fainting into the road as I chivvied the children up a slight incline. We had moved house by this time and changed doctors, so when I explained what had been happening to my new doctor, she referred me to a cardiologist at the local  hospital to be examined further.

They were very thorough here, I had ECGs , an echocardiogram, an exercise test and all was confirmed fine, but to be on the safe side, the consultant referred me to Harefield Hospital so I could undergo a tilt test. This revealed nothing also, so to be especially sure, they decided to plant an event recorder on an artery above my heart, this does a similar job to the heart monitors that people might wear to try and record what happens to their heart over twenty four hours or several days. I wasn't fainting enough to capture a recording of my faint over a twenty four hour period or a week, it was only happening randomly every twelve months, eighteen months or two years or so.          

2002: Two years on and the implant is removed, one recording on the recorder, evidencing they say just 'vasovagol syncope' triggers unknown, but seemed to be on getting up too quickly after resting and going up stairs too quickly after being sat for a while. Beta blockers were mentioned, but after discussion with the consultant not thought really to be that effective a treatment at that moment as it wasn't happening that often and I was able to control it myself to a point. Hence I carried on living around these 'triggers' even more, getting up from sitting to standing slowly, avoiding running up stairs too quickly, walking at a slower pace on going uphill and life carried on fine with an odd faint each year or two years.

I'm monitored by Harefield every twelve months and nothing changes. I'm not concerned, although it isn't pleasant when it occurs, it is not really interfering with my life. As I have already been thoroughly tested and it is a few years on and it takes a few hours on the M25 to get to Harefield just to have an ECG with nothing  being highlighted and nothing new to report, I eventually stop attending the outpatients clinic there. Obviously if things were to deteriorate, I would report straight back to my GP, but at the time felt I was wasting everybody's time.

Easter 2010: the faints seem to be happening more, I seem to be getting breathless at times, I feel so tired and unfit. By this point I've already decided to cut my hours as a full time teacher and work part time and one of the things I want to do is try and get fit and start doing some exercise. I feel I've been working so hard that I've let myself go on the fitness front, Rob keeps saying I should go to the doctors, but I want to try and get fitter first and feel this will make all the difference. Rob is also away from home a lot and weekends seem to be taken up with my teaching paperwork; dad is also quite poorly and awaiting a heart bypass operation and we need to travel up north a little more. Working part time seems the best way forward, although I feel really torn to do so, and leaving my class and my school I have felt totally dedicated to for the past seven years will be a real wrench.

I sadly leave my lovely school where I have taught since I was newly qualified teacher, as I was unable to cut my hours here and start a new part time job at another local school. I feel really upset to leave and wonder if I have made the right decision, I can't believe what a major upheaval it feels like, but deep down somehow, I know at this moment in time it is the right decision. This is a major U turn for me, as up to this year I had been aiming to get into school management.

My new school has a really welcoming atmosphere and the staff are lovely, after the wrench of leaving my old school, I think I am going to really enjoy working here and feel I am getting along well with everyone and settling in nicely. Surprisingly, I begin to feel quite unwell as soon as I start my new job, unlike my last school, the school has stairs, which I need to go up and down with pupils every day and I feel breathless and like I am going to pass out. This only happens now and again though and a lot of the time I feel all right, but I do feel tired in the extreme and can't put my finger on why. I am really loathe to take time off sick when I have only just started and persevere going in everyday, but the tiredness is weighing me down and feeling faint once more after climbing the stairs at school with a heavy bag of planning to work on, I decide it is time to go back to the doctor.

June 2010: I am referred to a cardiologist, he decides to run some tests starting with an echocardiogram, followed by a treadmill test. He is pretty sure its the vasovagol syncope getting worse and we discuss beta blockers and pacemakers, which he thinks may help. I am thinking 'here we go again, all these tests and they wont find anything!' I expect that at worst I might be able to get some tablets or have a pacemaker fit, which is only a small procedure that I could have done in the holidays, then I will be able to get back to getting on with my new job and the new life I am making for myself.

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