There are some things in life that you can not predict nor see it coming. This week I had a heart attack.
My Tuesday started like any other weekday, breakfast, shower, coffee. In this case, shaving my head was added to the routine as you can see. Little did I know, when I was making myself a cup of coffee, about the events that followed that day. And then it hit me, literally.
WARNING: SOME OF THE IMAGES BELOW MAY BE GRAPHIC! DO NOT SCROLL DOWN IF YOU ARE OF THE SENSITIVE TYPE.
Just as I noticed I was gasping for breath excruciating pain hit my chest and I fell face forward to the floor from my lazy chair, my glasses went and I dropped my iPhone which landed just in front of me. With the last bit of strength in me I unlocked it and typed HELP to my son Joris who was playing a computer game one floor down.
Praying that he got the message on his phone -and I was praying frantically please God don’t let me die too as I really thought that was about to happen- Joris had gotten it and ran upstairs and saw me in severe pain on the floor. Joris is my hero, he stayed calm and called the emergency services and made sure there was parking space in front of our house (as gardeners had put their lorry there earlier).
In the ambulance to the hospital
Waiting for that ambulance was like an eternity but in reality, they were there within 6 minutes and they took over. They stuck needles in me, they connected the ECG monitor in seconds and then the ambulance nurse told me to stay calm as I was in the middle of a heart attack in progress and put more emergency medication in the needle in my arm.
And then the trip to the hospital with screaming sirens just above me, no Doppler effect and they didn’t fade away in the background, it was for me this time. After a minute, probably just down the street where I live the nurse, who was spraying medication in my mouth shouted “NOW! He’s having it, step on it!” to the driver and the engine roared very loud off we went like a bullet.
As soon as we got to the hospital I was rushed into the Triage section of A&E and from there straight to Cardiac Care (CCU). An infusion was put in place, more cables connected and a doctor came and told me: there is no time to get used to this idea but you will be in the treatment room within the hour as soon as the patient in there is finished.
Seeing the fear in my eyes he then said “But don’t worry Mr Van Gemeren, we’re going to get you through this, you’re in the right place.” and a nurse gave me tranquillisers but I still panicked. Then I was rushed to the X-ray department and quickly they made some X-rays.
Little time to explain what was about to happen the head Cardiologist Markus and his assistant just introduced themselves and got to work. Put your arm here, I’m going to put this big lead sheet to cover you and then I get a syringe with local anaesthetics and I will start on your arm. You can watch on the big screen if you want but if you don’t just close your eyes and answer my questions if need be.
What can I tell? It hurts and I was still scared but before I knew it he got to the problem using a catheter to suck away a blood clot and he widened an artery with a little balloon attached to the end of a second catheter. After he put a stent in a little bit further down the artery with a third catheter and then it was finished, I was in there for one and a half hour the most.
What was the cause?
After about fifteen minutes before the next patient went in, the cardiologist who treated me came to my bed to explain what he had done and what caused the heart attack.
In the photograph above you can see the narrowed bit in the secondary coronary artery he is pointing at. And just before that point, there was a blood clot which fortunately didn’t block the artery entirely and my heart still received a little bit of oxygen. Because of that, there was only minimal damage to the heart muscle but he pointed out that they were only just in time, if that blood clot would’ve become dislodged it would have been the end of me.
Here you can see the repaired artery, big and black in the picture as it should be, he told me. The catheter is visible on the left and the yellow line at the bottom of the picture represents the exact moment in my heartbeat where the event occurred.
Back on the ward
Back in bed, I was in a lot of pain, on that hole in the artery in my wrist a pressurised device was applied directly on the wound, not funny as it hurts like hell but necessary. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well but I was relieved I survived and thankful to God, I prayed to thank Him there and then. He decided it wasn’t my time yet so I can spend more time with the people I love and do wonderful things for others.
The next day
As you can imagine I didn’t sleep well that night, lights were on, lots of beeps from monitors and every hour a nurse came to make ECG’s, take blood pressure, adding some medication to the infusion and I got tablets halfway through the night and early in the morning as my heart rate and blood pressure were way too high.
And of course, new urgent patients came in during the night with ambulance personnel and nurses talking in the corridor, doors were opened and shut, that’s what it is like in CCU in a hospital, a lot of noise and talking.
And it must be said, even though the work pressure for the nurses was high, they all had time to chat for one or two minutes before continuing with their job.
The doctor showed me I now have a healthy heartbeat again all be it there is some very minimal tissue damage that will disappear over the next months. I will have to adopt a totally different lifestyle, a diet and move and exercise more than I did before. I also got a whole list of medication that I will have to take for the rest of my life, starting with five different tablets in the morning. And easy on sugar and alcohol were as the use of salt is even forbidden for me from now on. But hey, here is a healthy heartbeat so I will oblige gladly. As I wrote in my previous blog just a few days before all this happened: I have a heartbeat and I intend to keep it.
A special thank you to:
In the following order: A special thank you to God who decided it wasn’t my time yet. And to Joris who is my hero and stayed calm all the time and immediately called the emergency services. To the ambulance personnel that got me to the hospital, Doctor Markus and his Cardiology team who performed the cardiac catheterisation and repaired the damage, a great job and a lot of respect. To all the nurses on the ward who had to put up with a babbling old git like me, they were great as well. And last but not least the love of my life, Christa, who picked me up from the hospital today.