This is another poem about my health, which over the last few years seems to be absolutely fine for just about long enough to lull me into a false sense of security before – metaphorically – jumping out from behind a bush to scare the living daylights out of me again. Middle age is proving to be a cruel mistress at times!
In summer of this year my heart decided it was time for a bit of fun and began to play up again. Having been admitted to hospital over four years previously with heart palpitations that led to enough tablets to sink a boat and then an operation a month later to resolve it all, I thought me and my heart were done with our difficult relationship. It turns out I was wrong.
In July, I had a mini episode when my heart began to race and stayed that way for around 5 hours one Sunday afternoon. I tried to hide it from my family, but eventually had to admit there was a problem after my complexion had gone grey and you could see my body shaking through my clothes. Dead giveaway, really!
In short – because I’ve already gone through this in a previous blog – I ended up being referred back to the cardiology department of Leeds General Infirmary and then referred on again for a 24 hour ECG. It found nothing at all unusual, but made for an eventful couple of days…and a poem.
24 Hour Hearty Person Summoned to an inconvenient hospital you've never heard of your first impression is of a relic from a different time, a bit like yourself, you think, and smile to seem brave. The clouds have returned again though, as the heart acts up, like a toddler seeking attention, giving a firm 'no' to all of your requests and striking with a clown-like tantrum, shaking its head at your every syllable and making you feel that you're not as in charge of things as you thought you might be. Once again, you'll notice every flutter, every beat, every time you're out of breath. So, here we are again. A hot summer's day when you shouldn't have a care in the world, even if you're stuck at work, but instead, you're stepping tentatively through the automatic doors, outwardly confident you hope, but inwardly full of fear. A receptionist greets you, smiling through the Covid mask, takes your details, asks the all too familiar questions about symptoms and tests and then motions you over to the exact place to where you will sit and wait... A few minutes pass like a decade and despite the hustle and bustle you're alone with your thoughts, your confusion and your paranoia. Child again. Then, your name is called and, still smiling you step into a glorified cupboard. Pleasantries exchanged, seats taken, your next 24 hours are explained and before you know it you've lifted your shirt without even being paid a compliment, let alone the offer of a drink. The inevitable question of the scar comes, like night follows day before you're scrubbed within an inch of your life and sticky patches are applied. You instantly vow to be brave and rip it off without a sound when the time comes to leave it behind. Next, the tiny machine that will shadow your every move is prepped and plugged and you're briefed about exactly what it is you'll need to do. And then, when it's time to go, you clip it to your belt like a pager last seen on an 80s trading floor and off you go, back out into the sunshine to have as normal a day as you can while your every heartbeat is recorded and scrutinised in search of an abnormality that you'd rather they didn't find.
It was a strange couple of days while I wore the portable ECG machine. It makes you quite self-conscious, the fact that you’re attached to a machine that’s liable to make itself known to people if you move in a certain way.
After the hospital, I went back to work where those in the know were surprisingly eager to see my ECG machine (although secretly I’m sure it was a sneaky look at my abs they were after!). I’m sure that it was as disappointing a sight as could have been expected; the machine and the abs!
Having been at my appointment for a while there wasn’t a lot of work left, but it was simply a case of doing what would be normal in order to see what my heart did. And this continued when I went home before getting up the next day to have some breakfast and head back to the hospital to give the machine back!
As it turned out, there was nothing overly worrying found in the results of the ECG and the blood tests I’d had, other than the need to hydrate myself about 100% better than I do. So, it turned out to be quite a worrying time that led to no real answers, which is never what we want when we visit the doctors or the hospital, I would imagine.
I’ll end with a word about the title, which if you didn’t know, references the Happy Monday’s classic made popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Although the song is about doing drugs and staying out raving, adapting the title to fit the poem just felt like it worked, even if the drugs are purely prescription and the partying has very much slowed down these days! Regardless, I hope you enjoyed the poem!