In some ways I feel like a fraud.
I'm lay here in a ward at one of the best Cardiac units in the country with men and women who are at least 30 years older than me and facing triple heart bypasses and all sorts of the most invasive, necessary and lifesaving procedures. The splendid chap in the opposite bed from me is 85 years old tomorrow. He can't go home because it's been decided he needs a pacemaker. He couldn't seem to take it more in his stride. The significant annoyance for him is that he's having to celebrate his birthday away from those he cares about most. But his answer is simply the make the best of it.
I'm not, or at least I don't feel, anywhere near as infirmed as those around me and yet I'm spending my days since Saturday being prodded, injected and asked repeated if I've opened my bowels lately. I have, but not to the extent I'd normally tell someone about it. It all does feel a little alien.
So why am I here? I didn't think I had a problem. I'm 45. Yes, I smoke. I'm not teetotal either. But nor am I Keith Richards. A few weeks ago, as part of a half marathon training routine I went out for a run. Not a long one, but it was even shorter than expected because I started to get what felt like a muscular pain in my shoulder. It started to happen every time I exercised. In saw a physio when I was on holiday and something to do with my rotator cuff was mentioned and I got strapped up with that sporting Sellotape they use these days and packed off on my way.
The pain didn't go away and started to spread down my arm and across my chest. Always when exercising still and always accompanied with more sweating than was usual. And progressively over a couple of weeks, less and less intensive exercise would trigger the same thing. By Saturday morning it was clear that this was getting worse not better. I figured I'd better overcome my in-built male stoicism and ask someone qualified about it, and within 4 hours I'd been admitted with a suspected heart attack.
Heart attack? How the hell did that happen? I hadn't keeled over clutching my chest lately. Nothing had flashed before my eyes. I just felt a bit iffy.
But now everything has changed. I'm still on the ward but: no driving for a month, no work for 6 -8 weeks, every vice gone in a heartbeat (quite literally).
There are only so many times you can shuffle up and down the corridor in a day; so many times you can check Facebook, emails, texts, anything to have something to do while the clinicians run the tests that follow an event like this. And then you start to think...
I can't be vice-free at my age. I don't want to go back to work as the guy who gets the stressless jobs because he's had a heart attack. How does it work at home now with the family? Running was my thing, I loved to run. I'm pretty sure my wife won't be happy with me carrying on with that if it's allowed.
I'm finding out, over the last couple of days, through a couple of generations there's a line of men who ignored medical advice and popped their clogs way too early. I don't want to be that guy either. I feel like I have some choices to make. But maybe it's an opportunity, beyond the basics of food and exercise, to do somethings differently: a different perspective on career, on work life balance, on what's really important and what's not.
I'm documenting this because I've got decisions to make for me and with my family about my life, our life, from now on and many have a direct link to my longevity. Aside from the new cocktail of pills that will become a constant feature, I guess I've got some thinking to do. This blog is about what's going on and what happens next.
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