“I still don’t feel great!” I kept saying a few weeks after I had what I thought was a viral infection. I need to get this sorted.

A few weeks earlier on the Tuesday morning I was walking over the bridge coming from Manors car park like I had done a million times before, but this time it was different, I felt like I could not walk well my body just didn’t want to respond; I felt so ill. I made it to the gym and taught a couple of classes then my current class said I should go home. I looked that bad,I had to agree, so I made the call to Kerry.

It is so hard to be self employed and not go to work, your body just seems like it goes into your trained response of I am fine, keep working until you fall over. Most times I have Christmas, Easter weekend and one holiday, the same thing year in year out, the only other time is when I injure myself so I can’t physically work or get the flu or viral infection. This is what I thought this was.

I had been working hard and trying to hold out until Easter so I could have a few days off in a row to recharge my batteries. I was Ill for a few days but I had a course on the Saturday in Sunderland kickboxing club for one of my blackbelts and I didn’t want to let him down so I went back to work. What I found strange was that my blood pressure kept rising and I had these massive pulses in my neck and I had a constant headache. I taught the course and thought it would just take a couple of weeks to get my fitness back.

We had booked a lodge to go to for a few days from a friend of mine set in the countryside with a lake , river and lovely walking trails in Otterburn. The place was beautiful but everytime I walked or got in the hottub, this pulse in my neck appeared and I felt awful. When we got home we had to go for a family meal with around 20 of us all for someone’s birthday. During the meal I had to keep going to the toilet to find cold air to calm myself down until later on that evening I asked Kerry to take me to the hospital. (the date was 14 April 2019).

They did some minimum tests and said I was having heart palpitations but go to my doctor in the morning which I did, they sent me back to hospital for an ECG. So I carried on going to work but still getting theses ‘elevations’, after a few weeks I got a phone call saying my ECG had come back irregular and I had to go to see the Cardiac Nurse and I would be put on medication to help as my cholesterol was high. I also saw my Doctor and he said he would keep an eye on it for me and if I was still the same ring for another appointment. I had the medication but these ‘Elevations’ still were happening up to 6-8 times per day. It got so bad that I could just make it to the gym and have to lie on the floor until I had calmed down and then I would get up and start my day teaching privates and group classes all day. I was then booked in for CT scan where they would elevate my heart to see what was going on. It was a very uncomfortable experience. I was in there for 1 ½ hours first for a base reading then they chemically induced an elevation then another base reading to see the differences. I was left a few more weeks then I went back to the doctors to see how I was on the medication only to be told that I had had a small heart attack and my arteries were blocked, this was a surprise to me because the hospital had not rang or wrote to me ; He also was not happy and phoned the hospital.

Within an hour of being at the doctors I had a phone call from the Cardiac Nurse saying they wanted to see me! Kerry was unhappy and you could feel the disturbance in the force! Why is it you get more pissed off about how people treat your loved ones than you do about yourself ! We went in and the nurse tried to say the Doctor had been on holiday and every other excuse why they had not rang me. She then played down the state of my arties saying they were not that bad and medication should help ; It had done little or nothing so far to stop these elevations but I am not a Doctor or Nurse and they should know best. I got a letter saying that I should see a heart specialist in September but I was going on holiday at the start of August and when I went to my regular Doctor he said this was unacceptable and he said he wanted me to see the consultant earlier. I left his surgery and went to walk Nev with Kerry, the Doctor rang Kerry as my phone was in the house and he told me to go to Nsec but not to drive there. I still thought nothing of this but thought it was better to go asap so Kerry came with me then had to pop off. So I had a few tests done and an X-ray then they said I had to wait for blood test results then they decided to admit me to the cardiac ward for observation. Kerry nipped home to get things for my overnight stay. When I went to the ward the consultant I had been booked to see in September came to see me clutching a sheet of paper!

He firstly apologised that I had been left so long as 3 of my arties were block with 2 of them up to 97 % and no amount of medication would have helped and in basic terms I had been a walking time bomb for the last 4 months and if I had not been as fit as I was I would not be here! I could not believe what I was hearing. I had been going about my daily life having 6-8 elevations every day and he said each one of them could have killed me!

Kerry was very shocked when she returned and I was shell shocked. I wasn’t even allowed to walk Kerry to the door. I had to stay on the ward at all times. I have only been in hospital a few times in my life but my lovely wife Kerry has got a season ticket for them due to her health problems, this was a complete roll reversal. I got to feel how Kerry feels waiting for people to come to see you and the heartbreaking time when they have to leave, there are things I had never told Kerry or the girls how I feel and act when she was in hospital but she saw and felt what our girls are like when someone they love is in hospital, the little things the girls do like Erin walking around and sleeping in my hoodie and the little breakdowns each one had at some point; An awful feeling as a parent to see your children that upset and there is nothing you can do about it!

I was told I was due to be transferred to the Freeman hospital where I would have an Angiogram asap so that stents could be put into my arties, I just had to wait for a bed to be available . After a weekend in the hospital I got the call to say I would be going on Monday morning for my operation. Monday came and I still didn’t think It was that serious until I had to go in the ambulance with heart monitors attached (sometimes I am slow on the uptake)
When I got to Freeman I got a wave of emotion that I now was in the same unit that I saw my dad in when he had a triple heart bypass years earlier. I remember what I felt seeing him after the operation and had the awful feeling that my girls would feel the same as I did all those years ago! I felt guilty my life had come to this moment but I knew I would be fine and after I had the operation I could start to get better and not have this hanging over me like it had for their last 4 months not knowing what was wrong; now I know and they are going to fix it!

The Operation went fine but it was a bit bizarre because they give you some pain killers but you can watch the surgeons operate on you, you see the dye going in and then feel the tubes going in through your wrist and see it snake to the artery they are working on and then see them put the stent into the next artery; all very odd but strangely fascinating. My blood pressure dropped just after the surgery so I was put on a drip for 6 hours but once that time was up I would be clear to go home. That amazed me that they could do all of that surgery and all you had to show for it was a small cut on your artery ( lots of bruising in the coming days and now I was a fully fledged Ironman (surgical steel but Ironman sounds better!) and you get a free card for when you travel to tell them what you have when the metal detector go off!

I had a couple of weeks rest then went on holiday that we had booked a year before I just had to take it easy and not go too mad, so the peddleoes were ruled out but lying next to the pool and a bit of swimming was ok and we had a lovely time.

I am now in the process of getting my fitness back and on blood thinners for a year and I bruise like a peach but I am thankful It is all sorted I just have to be less gung ho than I was used to and try and train and teach smarter than I used to! I am thankful for all the people that helped me and especially my lovely wife Kerry, daughters Molly and Erin and the lovely cuddles of little Nev my dog !

To all family and AFC family that have helped me and even told me off when I get too carried away; I promise I will take better care of myself x

Big love from me ..Ironman

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