We read about marathon runners, mountain bikers and other people in their prime suddenly having heart attacks. But it doesn’t happen to us does it?
A few days ago I was in Gladstone, a small town of 45,000 people about 450 km north of Brisbane. It was a regular workday, nothing stressful. Just after dinner with some friends, I broke out in a cold sweat and started feeling nauseous. No, it was not the bill! Walking to the car, I felt even worse and had to lie down, shivering and weak. An ambulance soon whisked me off to the local hospital.
On arrival I was given a troponin test. This indicated that I may have had a heart attack. What?? Me? I don’t smoke, drink moderately, not diabetic. OK so I need to lose a few covid kilos, but a heart attack? Lots of little sticky things were placed on my chest for monitoring my heart beat, and hooked to other machines to measure blood pressure, oxygen levels etc. Drip set up. The emergency physician gave me an ultra sound to check for diverticulosis. Because there is no cardiologist in Gladstone I needed to be medically evacuated to Brisbane. At about 1 am I was pressed to make a choice of either public or private hospital, and if the latter, to name a cardiologist.
And that’s why you need to pick a cardiologist even if you don’t need one just yet.
I have my share of medical issues and thankfully, only ever had day surgery. From what I recall from a friend who sliced off his own thumb with a power saw, public hospitals are the best if you are in a true emergency. So was mine a true emergency? By this time I was feeling almost normal. Time to call the big guns – so at 1 AM I called my older brother, a retired GP. He advised going to a private hospital and after some too-ing and fro-ing and much googling, I landed on a potential cardiologist, selected on the basis that she is not only medically expert but a good communicator. If I was not already stressed, this palaver of selecting a cardiologist pushed my blood pressure even higher.
By noon the next day I was medically evacuated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Brisbane, my home town. Strapped in, monitored for heart and oxygen levels, I kept telling everyone I felt a fraud because I didn’t feel that ill. The flying nurses were absolutely tops, very reassuring. The flight was mildly uncomfortable because the light aircraft gets bounced about a bit. All the equipment were purpose built to fit into a small plane. It was so impressive, everything worked like an well-oiled machine. We picked up another patient in Bundaberg and she looked really ill. Definitely not a fraud. The flight took about three hours all in. On landing, the receiving ambulance took me to the wrong hospital. The two young male paramedics were keen on testing the knowledge of the pretty student ambo, and putting her through her paces.
44 hours after the first ambulance ride, checked by ECGs, chest X-ray, abdominal and heart ultrasounds, CT angiogram, and more accurate troponin tests, I was given the all clear and told it was a storm in a tea-cup. It could have easily been the reverse, and there was talk of possible blocked arteries and stents. In any case, I was in very good hands. Hats off to the nurses and doctors who looked after me, and thank you to Maxine and Aurelia who was with me when I went into a swoon, and brother David who took a call at 1 AM.
PS- I didn’t get to see the cardiologist of my choice because the online information about who practices at which hospitals was inaccurate. Another reason why you need to do your research now.