I normally write blogs relevant to feet and podiatry, but today I am going to reflect on my recent heart health scare as many people have asked “what happened?”. I also want to share my experience as a warning to others.

Those individuals who know me well; patients, family and friends know I am always on the go. I am the sort of individual who always has a plan on the go, looking for that next ‘big thing’, to promote the business, to offer the best for my patients and put other people’s welfare before my own. I am often told I need to slow down and relax.
I don’t want to make this a self-indulgent piece, but it has to be a little “all about me”, to try to explain what happened. Insidiously the stresses in my life were about to catch-up with me. We all experience varying levels of stress and life events can compound that. I for example tragically lost my son Joe, who was only 25 nearly 5 years ago. I cannot downplay the huge impact such an event like that causes and continues to ripple on especially to my other son.

We all deal with grief in different ways and mine was to get busier! No time to think. My laptop became my comfort blanket, plugging away on the next great plan. No time to stop. This then becomes compiled by the need not to let anybody down. I am the classic emotional sponge. I soak up other people’s stresses, which can be dangerous if you are not looking after your own emotional well-being. You end up chasing your tail and actually end up not really pleasing anybody, because you are so stretched and have so little time for anything! Relationships are put under strain.

Events of Friday 12th October 2018 – The Big Bang

Busy morning clinic followed by an afternoon of home-visits. A huge list of things to do: order stock, write up notes, design new outside banner, reply to emails, prepare clean instruments and eat lunch. All to be done in 90 minutes. Must get to 1st domiciliary patient at 2.00 pm. To add to my list, I got an urgent text from my dad. His stoma bag was leaking (he has pancreatic cancer). I offered to change it after my home-visit session.

Should all have been okay, but then as usual I went off on a tangent. Got distracted, in excitedly re-arranging the reception area to encompass our new venture into shoe retail. New project, new layer of stress, but I have great faith and passion in this one that it will be a success. Personal emotional involvement.

Anyhow, rang patient to tell her I was running late, then off I fled. Got stuck at traffic lights, so tried to send an email on my phone. Must use all spare time! Lights changed off I went then BANG. This awful bone crushing pain began to radiate through my chin and up the left side of my jaw. My chest began to feel tight and I felt a little light headed, but I pressed on. Mustn’t let my patient down. I did actually treat her, ignoring pain and pressed on to the next one. It was then when I arrived on their drive, I knew something was seriously not right and not to ignore my symptoms. I rang my GP and was fortunately given an appointment 30 minutes later. I texted my husband not to worry implying it was all routine. I did not want to stress him!

To cut to the quick, I had an ECG and was told something was not right with my T waves. They were depressed. “What does that mean?”. An ambulance was called. 2 arrived! I was rushed off to Queen Alexander hospital and told; “I think you may be having a heart attack or could have had one?” – “I can’t be, I am only 55!”. I had all the precursors which indicated it could be true? What a scare to hear words like that, almost makes you have a cardiac arrest!

Off to the cardiac ward and after 3 blood tests later, numerous ECGs, I was informed I had not had a heart attack. Phew, but I would need an angiogram because something was wrong. The angiogram revealed my heart showed no disease, so what caused my event? Everyone kept asking; “Are you having a stressful time?”.

The conclusion was I had what is termed a Coronary Artery Spasm. Stress had triggered the heart muscle to basically contract and spasm squashing the coronary artery reducing blood flow. My heart was under strain and had been for some time. I have a rare form of angina caused by physiological stress factors or simply not breathing correctly. I am now on a calcium channel blocker to basically counteract stress stimuli on the heart. Prozac for the heart.

This is a cautionary tale not to ignore stress related symptoms. I had been having chest tightness for a while and episodes of irregular breathing, but like many busy individuals ignored it. “No time to be ill”, but one can only soak- up so much stress then it begins to manifest itself physically.

Women get different symptoms of cardiac stress to men. We all know about pain radiating down the left arm and crushing chest pain, but how many women know about jaw pain? I was lucky because I knew. I was also fortunate to have aspirin in my purse which I took. Aspirin is a blood thinner reducing the risk of getting a clot which could trigger a stroke. I advise you all to keep one in your purse or wallet. The biggest advise of all, is if you feel ‘there is something wrong’, not to ignore it and get it checked out. I would also advise to find ways to mitigate and deal with stress, but I know that is easier said than done as I am rubbish at it, but I will try. Changes need to be made. Watch this space.

I just want to thank my wonderful husband for being such a great tower of love, strength and support and to the amazing NHS who pulled out all the stops for me in my time of need. We are so fortunate to have such an incredible service. I would also like to thank all you lovely people who sent cards, flowers and messages of love and support. Normal service is now resumed.
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