January 24, 2018

Hearts and things...


Long time no blog! I'm not even sure if blogs are as popular as they used to be when I first started in 2007. The online landscape has changed so much with Instagram, Pinterest etc. But it is something I need to get back to. The prolonged absence has been for a few reasons, work, life and health just about covers it.

Health for me has been the trickiest issue. Firstly there was a knee thing. I call it a thing as it turned out to be quite bizarre once the scary side was out of the equation. In a nutshell, my knee swelled up one day a couple of years ago. A year after that, I noticed a hard lump inside the swelling. The hard lump grew so my GP sent me to see an Orthopedic Oncologist, suspecting it could be a cancerous growth. This meant I had 3 months of investigations, MRI scan, biopsy etc, to test to see if it was sarcoma. All very scary at the time, and a huge relief when I finally got a diagnosis of pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS), which is basically a joint disease that grows benign tumours. After another 3 months on the surgery waiting list, the tumour came out. I won't go into detail but it was very painful and took a while to recover from, and can regrow in the future, but for now, I'm having more physio to realign my kneecap, and so far so good.

Then last November, something happened that I was least expecting, I had a heart attack. 

Out of the blue, no prior symptoms, I'm not unhealthy (at least I don't think so!), had been doing pilates once a week since my knee surgery, low cholesterol, barely drink, don't smoke, and yet, one morning, the 2nd November 2017 to be precise, at 8.10am, I could barely breathe. It felt like my lungs and chest were being crushed, followed by a sharp pain in my heart. What followed is a bit of a blur, GP surgery, ECG, ambulance and hospital. At 3.30pm, the blood test results came back, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by nurses. There was troponin in my blood, which confirmed, I'd had a heart attack. I went into shock, trying to take in what was going on around me, to me. Nurses, doctors, heart monitors, blood being taken again, injections, tablets, my head was spinning.

I was admitted into the coronary care unit, and the next day moved again, by ambulance to a different hospital, for a procedure called an angiogram. At this point, I knew I'd had a heart attack, but the missing piece of the puzzle was why. An angiogram is not a very pleasant experience, and there were complications afterwards with excessive bleeding. It is done via an artery, which should seal up once its over, however, the first course of action with heart attack patients is what they call dual anti-platelet therapy, ie blood thinners. I didn't stop bleeding and spent the night with my arms elevated, in pressure straps and ice packs. The good news was the cardiologist found the issue. From my angiogram report...

"The main body of the right coronary artery was normal, however, there was an abrupt step down in calibre of both the posterolateral branch and the posterior descending artery with an appearance suggestive of spontaneous coronary artery dissection"

So there you have it, I had something called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD. Quite rare, affects mainly women, and happens spontaneously. It cannot be predicted and cannot be prevented. In short, part of an artery either bruised or split, causing the blood supply to my heart to be compromised, which in turn caused an acute non-stemi myocardial infarction. I came home from hospital massively bruised and on a lot of medication. It's taken a couple of months to feel anywhere near normal, it's not normal though, its a new normal really.

Next steps are, I'm waiting to see a cardiologist in March and also have an assessment appointment early February with cardiac rehab. I've had an echocardiogram since it happened, so far, it looks like there hasn't been any permanent muscle damage to my heart, beyond that, the other important factor is the dissected artery healing, which I've been told can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. Long term there's a good chance of a full recovery, in time the medication may reduce, the lasting factors will be the memories of it all and the medic alert bracelet I now wear.

Just before all this happened, I'd begun work on another book, and in fact have ideas for 3 new books. Now I'm starting to feel better, am itching to get back to work so am going to keep going. One of the first projects I'm currently working on is a fundraising pattern, a softie that can be personalised for survivors of trauma, proceeds will go to a heart research charity initially. A cause close to my own heart right now!

*Edited to add - this post really only just skims the surface of what happened, I will write about it in more detail soon for the Beat Scad website.