I decided to start a blog for a number of reasons – some serious and some just the usual inane knobheadery that sadly dominates my thinking. However, it occurred to me earlier this year that I felt old. Simple as that; not particularly bad, but definitely old. Stuff hurts when it never did before. The legs don’t recover so quickly anymore and there’s loads of things about ‘youth culture’ that either irritate me immensely or that I just don’t understand. I’m ‘only’ 46, but life’s definitely changed. So, rather than sitting moaning, I thought I’d write this.
So, when did I get so old? What makes me feel old? And why does it concern me so much?
‘my heart had been racing for four days…’
The main thing that made me feel properly old (and actually made me think there’s loads of stuff that I should get done, like a blog or taking a year off and backpacking to Machu Picchu, man) was falling ill. In March I took the unusual step (unusual for me, being male, Northern and like,totally macho) of going to the doctors. To be fair, there was good reason and I only felt a tiny bit wimpy about going. I’d felt rough for a month or so but now my heart had been racing for four days. Now I’m no doctor, but I know that your heart is much better when you’re not feeling like it’s trying to punch a hole in your chest. Every night during that time I went to sleep thinking that I’d wake up and everything would be back to normal. Every morning though, I woke up and wondered if anyone would spot my heart trying to escape from my chest as nothing had changed. Because, of course in my mind when people aren’t gazing into my eyes or checking out my sugarlumps, they’re staring at my pecs.
Anyway, I was forced to admit what was going on to my wife because frankly, I was getting a little bit scared. And so, despite my protests, she made me an appointment and I accepted my fate – to sit in a waiting room with Morley’s elderly, listening to lift music until way after my actual appointment time before going in to have a doctor listen to my chest and then look at me like I’d utterly wasted his time.
But then when I actually did go in something quite surprising happened. The doctor looked a little bit concerned. He touched me far too many times with his freezing cold stethoscope. He ‘ummed’ and ‘hmmmd’ a lot until it got to the point that I thought he was going to tell me I probably only had hours to live. But then foolishly gave me an option. Go straight to A&E to get properly checked out – no thanks – or wait for him to ring them and maybe arrange an appointment with the hospital at a later date – yes please. So, still convinced that it’d all magically go away I decided that rather than waste anyone’s time I’d just go with the later appointment and head off to my coach’s meeting. Job done, yay, I was still young and invincible!
Only, I wasn’t. About an hour later my phone rang and I had to excuse myself from my meeting after the doctor basically told me to get to A&E or he’d send an ambulance my way! I think I even heard him use the phrase ‘blue lighting’ and I was sure he didn’t want me to feature in a moody 80s music video. So, in a bit of a daze, off I went. (And in case you’re wondering, yes, Chuck Norris here drove himself to A&E, heart problem and all).
‘I was still in the same shape as I was in my early 20s’
A little while later and I was stood in the A&E department of the LGI asking myself the question, ‘When did I get so old?’ Still though, with a mixture of bravado and my head telling me that I was still in the same shape as I was in my early 20s, I was sure it’d just be magic tablets and getting sent home, wondering what all the fuss was about and worrying that Louise was going to make me eat more of those vegetable things she’s so fond of.
And then a nurse told me they were going to put a cannula in my arm. Now I’d heard that name on Casualty – cannula, not nurse, I’d heard of nurses ages ago – a cannula sounded serious! They tell you it’s going to feel like a ‘sharp scratch’ but it bloody doesn’t. It bloody hurts! Why were they wanting to hurt me? Nurses and doctors came and went, poked and prodded me, asked me many of the same questions (don’t these people talk to each other?) and still there was no sign of any magic tablets.
What happened next was definitely not expected though. A doctor came in and, with her best serious adult face on, told me that I was being admitted. Like, kept in hospital and given a bed on an actual ward. They left me on my own for an overly long time – enough to start really worrying – while I tried to carefully choose my words in texts to Louise. During this time another nurse came in to take yet more of my blood and when I told her about my magic tablets theory she replied with ‘Well, it’s a good job you came in, because if you hadn’t…’ and just left it at that! Now I really felt old! What? What would have happened if I hadn’t come in? She never did tell me.
Eventually I was allowed back out into the waiting area and Louise came in with an overnight bag. And if there’s one thing that’ll make you feel old, it’s the wife. Just kidding, it’s an NHS waiting area. I try not to judge (not really) but let’s just say that all human life is here. And at least 90% of it has dressed itself head to toe in Sports Direct and is no longer in possession of many of their original teeth anymore! Several of them also need to stop bringing pairs of police officers with them to hospital, but that’s another story.
‘…some bloke was wheeling me on to a cardiology ward in the middle of the night…’
Eventually I was taken up to Ward 19 of the LGI and while I felt perfectly able to walk to a lift and find it myself, our wonderful NHS had other plans. That’s right, as if I didn’t feel old and battered enough they were going to take me there in a wheelchair. A few days earlier I’d been chasing 9 year olds round a football field – I’m their football coach, not the Childcatcher or anything worse, don’t call Childline – and now some bloke was wheeling me on to a cardiology ward in the middle of the night with several almost dead pensioners. Probably.
And it was that type of assumption that led to my next bout of asking myself, when did I get so old. On the ward I got talking to a lovely bloke who had suffered a heart attack a few days earlier. We talked about the NHS, how amazing the staff were and what was happening to us. I realise now that I must have looked terrified and he was being incredibly nice and trying to calm me down. After a while though, I caught a glimpse of his heart monitor. His heart was doing something like 62 beats a minute. Mine? 148! Not the kind of race I want to win, however competitive I might be! WHEN DID I GET SO OOOOOOOOLLLLDDD? The bloke with the dodgy heart was seemingly perfectly relaxed while the aspiring Rafa Benitez here was more like Dot Cotton! He’d nearly died, but I’d been telling myself that some magic tablets would put everything right. I was old, I was poorly and worse, I was more scared than ever.
And so that was the thing that brought it all home to me and made me think, amongst other things, about starting to write a blog. I was allowed home the next day and took the rest of the week off work. I rested. I napped quite a lot. I read, watched telly and I did a lot of simply sitting about daydreaming. So, a lot like work life really, except that lots of people were nice to me, rather than calling me a dick all day!
A month later I was back in hospital, again for a short stay, in order to have a procedure where they inserted tubes into my groin and fired radio waves at my heart. But more of that thrilling adventure another time. I’d had a small scare, but now, a few months on I’m feeling like I’m getting better. I still feel tired, but I’m back out doing tentative runs, I’m back at work and I’m back coaching my team again. I can do dad stuff without feeling worn out and I’ve even dropped telling Louise ‘I nearly died you know‘ in order to get out of doing too much or eating fruit and veg. I’m even remembering to use my inhaler.
Best of all though, and despite the realisation that middle age is definitely upon me, I’m still here.