So, at half seven this morning I’m reaching for the Weetabix on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. Or maybe it was the cereal bowl in the cupboard next to that one. It might’ve been when I rattled through the drawer looking for my favourite spoon (I’m 47 and have a favourite spoon), but either way, as I was standing in the middle of the kitchen I was acutely aware of a sudden and deadening chest pain. Almost as quickly, it spread to my neck. From somewhere deep within, my buried knowledge of all I’d learned on first aid courses came magically, unexpectedly, flying back.
“I’m having some sort of heart attack,” I thought to myself. “But I’m not experiencing that feeling of impending doom that I remember being told about. Maybe it’s angina. I dunno.”
So I sat down and ate my Weetabix and drank the coffee which I’d poured earlier and left to cool.
Breakfast over, I went upstairs. I was in 2 minds whether or not to tell my wife. I felt kinda ok, but I knew something wasn’t right. I also knew how anxious and panicky my wife can get. And there was the not insignificant factor of my pal succumbing nearly two years ago to chest pains with tragic, devastating consequences.
“I’ve got a wee bit of a chest pain,” I volunteer. “And it’s in my neck as well. I think I pulled a muscle when I was reaching for the Weetabix. I’m gonnae stand under the shower and see if the heat will help it.”
Before I knew what was happening, she was on the phone to NHS24, and straight back off again with a simple instruction.
“Get out that shower. Get dressed. The ambulance will be here in 5 minutes.”
“But…. my work …. the school team…. they’re training tonight… big game tomorrow….”
Five minutes later and I’m in my living room, dressed, wired up to an ECG monitor being worked by a paramedic and breathing carelessly through a nebuliser, with every puffy breath transforming my living room into the Top of the Pops studio from 1983.
Then I’m in the ambulance. As the patient. Wired up to more machines, watching as a ticker tape of spikey graphs spits from somewhere below where I lie. I’m trying to work out whereabouts I am. I know I’m going to Crosshouse Hospital but as we swerve round roundabouts I’m trying to picture my bearings and come to the conclusion that I have absolutely no idea where we are. I’d make a rubbish kidnap victim, I think to myself as the ambulance wheel clips the edge of a raised part of road. We must be near Springside, I reason. The next thing I know, I’m being wheeled out the ambulance, still on the bed and I’m crashing through the doors of A&E and along a corridor to a desk where one of the paramedics gives my details to someone while 25 or 30 medics stand around for their morning team briefing. Perfect timing.
“We’ll need to keep you in just now,” says the doctor. “We’ll need to do further tests in 12 hours. We can’t rule out the possibility of a heart attack, or angina. Or even just shingles. You can get chest pains before the shingles rash appears, y’know.”
It’s been a long day – the longest day – and I’ve been further poked and prodded and jagged and wired up via those little electro patches that rrrrrrrrrip the hairs off whatever part of your body they happen to be stuck to.
I’m fed up. Feeling ok but fed up.
I’m still here. I just want to go home.