I like to think I'm a healthy 22-year-old. I'm active. I eat relatively healthy food (though admittedly my cooking may not be the yummiest), I'm not a smoker and I've never touched an illegal drug in my life.
So when I experienced chest pains for an entire day, I didn't pay much attention to it. I felt the pain getting intense as I was walking to dinner - but I was on my way to Nandos and though I wanted to go home and collapse on to my bed, I really couldn't justify missing a Nandos!
My flatmate who is somewhat wiser than me suggested we do the online diagnostic test to see what advice the NHS could give. A red page appeared: "Your answers suggest you need to dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance".
We looked at each other and giggled. Though in pain I was up and walking. "No don't do that. I don't need one of those". Instead we called a nurse who said she wanted to call an ambulance for us. We still refused and said we'll get the bus or walk - it wasn't that far. She asked for us to get a taxi - we said we couldn't really afford it. She kept asking all these questions about whether I'd ever had heart problems, family history of heart attacks, etc. She said the nature of the pains I was experiencing suggested some kind of internal problem. Then she told my flatmate to tell the bus driver to pull over if I feel short of breath at all. I began to get a little worried at this point.
We reach Mile End hospital. Turns out there's no A&E department or doctor that can see me. We laugh it off saying how silly we are and get a bus to Royal London Hospital. The pain still hurt and inside I felt anxious. Two elderly women stand in front of us on the bus and by the time I realised I was sitting in the priority seat it was too late - they'd sat somewhere else. I felt incredibly guilty and wish I'd just stayed home at this point.
Sitting in the waiting room in A&E was frustrating. I wondered why we'd come here. If I was having a heart attack, surely I wouldn't be conscious at this point. By the time we met the doctor I was convinced everything was fine and almost asleep from exhaustion and pain. The doctor measured my pulse and his face dropped. He asked the nurse to do the same and her face dropped too. They took my pulse with a machine and said to me that my heart-rate was double what it was meant to be. I looked at my flatmate and at this point tears came to my eyes. She panicked too. I knew I couldn't go home yet and I could tell the people around me were panicking.
They moved me into a room and stamped ten stickers around my body which they hooked up to a machine. They took an ECG (electrocardiogram) to see if my heart was functioning ok. They checked my stomach too. I could feel my body shaking and I couldn't tell why. Perhaps I felt uncomfortable when the doctors pressed into my body - it felt intrusive but at the same time it had to be done.
The nurse said to me they may take me into the resuscitation unit which seemed absurd. I could walk and talk and move just fine! She warned me there was lots of scary looking equipment there but I'd be safe. My thought at this point was not what was happening but what the doctors predicted might happen to me.
Thankfully they didn't take me there. And my ECG, blood tests, x-ray etc came out clear of a heart attack, blood clot and anything else that would cause a sudden risk to me. We were kept there till around 5am and in that time several things struck me.
Firstly, I was wearing odd socks. Secondly, I realised the importance of quality healthcare and health professionals. Having people look after you when you're sick and in danger is incredibly importantly. In between waiting for my results in bed the doctor came in and reassured me that they'll be there soon. Little things like this, made the world of difference to me. A porter saw my (amazing) flatmate on the chair trying to sleep. He gave us both blankets. And though I was capable of walking to the x-ray department, he let me rest on the bed and wheeled me there.
Lastly I realised how important it is to listen to my body when it's telling me something is wrong. Okay I may not do drugs, but that doesn't mean I'm immune. It doesn't mean my lifestyle is perfect. I drink far too much coffee, I don't sleep well, I skip lunch a lot. I neglect my body. I realised how many ambitions and dreams I have in life to fulfil and my life will be limited if I abuse my body.
I've come to realise my life is defined by not what happens to me, but the actions I take in response what's happened to me: I will now protect my heart and I wish to give back to the service that helped me (NHS). I was lucky to only have a scare but I know others are not so lucky. I want them to receive all the help they can - it's an incredibly frightening place to be.
I will be doing a sponsored coffee cutdown to raise money for the Barts charity which gives money to the Barts NHS Trust - a series of hospitals in London (including the one that helped me). Coffee may not have caused my problems but I know the amount I drink is wrong and realising how the little things in our life affect us is important. In moderation (as with most things), coffee is fine but why should I risk my health to drink it excessively?
I want to make a conscious effort to respect my body. Cutting down to two cups a day might not seem like a big deal, but anyone who knows me knows how much I love and drink coffee! Moderation and balance is key. Coffee is just the beginning of a long-term endeavour. If you'd like to sponsor me, click here to do so!
Lastly I wish to tell you why I'm sharing my story. Part of me feels like I share too much, publicise parts of my life on media when I shouldn't. But when an experience in my life teaches me something and drives to me to do something, I feel it's important to share that message so others. I would do this with my children and loved ones so why wouldn't I do that with the rest of the world? I hope that if you take anything from reading this, it's that we must protect the body's we've been blessed. Never neglect the messages our bodies try to tell us and never believe we are infallible simply because we may be young and don't part-take in activities known to cause harm.
Health is wealth.
Peace and Love always.