"My Experience in the last two weeks"

About: Royal Gwent Hospital / Cardiology

(as the patient),

Diary of a survivor Aged 68

It’s 12. 05pm and I am meeting for my regular meal with an old teaching pal of mine. Steak a bit tough, and I feel a little indigestion on the right hand side of my chest. Took a drink of Shandy to relieve the problem. Felt like I had swallowed a block of ice cream too quickly. Ache increasing rapidly. My pal suggests that she take me directly to nearest hospital. I’m not leaving my Jag in some Cwmbran pub car park. Decide to drive home. Big mistake. The Jag gets me home somehow. I collapse on my settee. My wife calls for ambulance and starts giving me grief about driving home. Paramedic arrives. Definitely not a heart attack, but setting up an ECG just in case. No sweating, no breathlessness, no pain in my left side, no pain in my left arm, no nausea. Just a huge ache in my right side chest, and an ache in my right arm that is always there, as I have a badly arthritic right wrist. ECG fine. Problem appears to be pleural. Makes sense, as I have only recently recovered from a long chest infection. Ambulance crew appears and agrees with paramedic. Another ECG confirms no heart attack. Offer to take me to hospital rejected, as I am not having a heart attack and can book an appointment with my local Doctor in the morning. Wife far from happy.

Take tablets through the day. Getting used to the ache. 10pm move to spare bedroom to “relax the ache away”. 12. 45am ache increasing. Ambulance sent for. More grief from my wife. Paramedic arrived within a couple of minutes. Must have been waiting around the corner. Not having a heart attack. Another ECG, which is fine. No symptoms, as before. Ambulance crew arrive and administer another ECG. Confirm likely pleural event but suggest that I go to hospital for an x-ray rather than book an appointment. In so much pain they could have taken me anywhere they wanted. Wife looks happier.

Another ECG in ambulance before setting off. Arrive promptly at RGH. Taken straight to Majors. Met by nurse with close cropped shaven sides and a purple mop of hair. Should be easy to recognise from description. Give her a hug from me. Re-routed straight to Resuscitation. Discussing problem with nurse then all of a sudden I am in the hands of nurses and Doctors. Still conscious, but feeling floppy. Within a few seconds my heart rate plunged and I “flopped”. They got me back in short order with a mixture of intravenous jungle juice and unadulterated knowledge and care. Give them my love and thanks. Spent several hours in Resuss hooked up to various machines including one that had made its mission to strangle my arm every 15 minutes. More ECG’s and more bloods. Visited by main man who confirmed with the help of blood test results and slight changes in my ECG’s that I had indeed been having a heart attack.

Transferred to CCU in the morning.

While in Resuss I had left a message for my wife to continue with some urgent appointments that she had in the morning, and that I would be staying in hospital overnight. When she telephoned in the following afternoon to find out where I was, she found out I was in CCU. Imagine her joy. I may need to hide under the bed. More great care, ECG’s, taking of bloods, tablets and stomach injections. My wife and daughter arrive. My ear drum is starting to fail.

11. 30pm. A commotion in the corridor. Doors fly open and an elderly gentleman is moved at speed into the narrow gap between my bed and an empty bed that the nurses were preparing for him. He has arrested and is being given CPR on the move by one of the nurses. I then had the privilege of watching a team of nurses led by the magical Lisa supported by Leo and Leorgi, (excuse spelling), and a number of doctors as they set about bringing this very sick patient back from the brink. I will carry those images for a very long time. I only wish that I could pass them on to the political pygmies that we call politicians who continue to use the NHS as a point scoring popularity contest. Due to the efforts made by this team this gentleman’s family had another 3 days with him to prepare for the inevitable.

After 2 days, transferred to D3W. More excellent nursing. Couple of days later I had corrective Angioplasty. Nothing like watching your heart being fixed. Surgeon days that if all is well during the night I will be off home in the morning. He says the same thing to a friend of mine who by sheer coincidence I meet in recovery area, having had the same procedure a couple of hours before me.

To sum up I have no problems with the paramedics and ambulance crews who did not realise that I was in the process of having a heart attack. I did not display any of the main criterion for this event, and they did get me to a safe place. I furthermore suggest if you are going to flop do it in Resuss. The nursing staff were brill throughout, but I do have one niggling concern.

Having spent a peaceful night, and feeling none the worse for my adventures, I was chaffing at the bit to go home and leave my bed available to the next deserving patient. This was also the case for my mate in D3E.

I was told that nothing could happen until the doctor had signed me off. Unfortunately he was in clinic. Staff nurse Mel, who I shall be forever indebted to, appeared to make it her personal mission to try and get me out of there. Eventually about 6 hours later a registrar arrived. He spent 2 minutes repeating what had been done to me and the outcome, despite the fact that I already knew what had happened as I was there and had discussed everything with the surgeon. He then said that if my next ECG was OK I could leave. Within 5 minutes Mel had cried out my ECG and shown it to the registrar before he could disappear into the ether. Drugs arrived miraculously fast. 15 minutes later I was in a car on the way home. Before I left I visited my mate in D3W. He was still waiting!

There is a serious point to this. I am sure that there were many other patients waiting to be discharged who were held up unnecessarily waiting for a doctor to visit. I may be over-simplifying when I say that priority should be given to discharging patients who have already been identified, as my friend and myself had already been, as ready to go, before clinic starts. Beds made available on the wards release those in Majors and the Assessment unit that in turn has a knock on effect on those waiting on trolleys and in ambulances.

Surely the problems associated with discharge procedure should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

On the whole, well done RGH, you did me proud. Ear drums slowly recovering.

Gratefully

(name withheld) Bsc B. ed BI (bloody idiot)

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