I’m plugged into a 24-hour ECG monitor (otherwise known as an Ambulatory Electrocardiogram) at the moment. I had an interesting weekend, during which I experienced some strange heart-beats, so though I’d better ring the hospital. One of the good things about the hospital I attend is that they have a specialist team who deal with adults with congenital heart defects, and they don’t mind if you ring them up at ungodly hours or at the weekend. The nurse I spoke to suggested that if I was worried (which of course I was, this is me, after all) I should go to the local hospital and ask for an ECG to be done (usually they only take about five minutes, when they’re not being ambulatory) so that the results could be faxed to the congenital heart specialist people and they could check to make sure things were alright.
So, Mr C and I trotted off to the local hospital. Unfortunately, it being a Sunday the only place we could get an ECG done was in the Accident and Emergency Unit. We had to wait about three hours, which is probably not too bad by A & E standards, but was long enough. The poor doctor was quite relieved when he realised he didn’t have to do a full assessment of me – I’m too complicated and he was too busy, I think. I wasn’t complaining as it would have involved blood tests – and that we only wanted the ECG done. The doctor faxed it off and also spoke to someone from the congenital heart team at the hospital. The ECG result was fine, but we arranged that I would go in to see my Clinical Nurse Specialist from the Adult Congenital Heart Unit today.
I had another ECG done this morning and this was also fine. The nurse is not at all worried by my strange heart-beats. She thinks that they are just normal ectopic beats (scroll down the page), which everyone experiences at some point, but because my heart is beating in a different way to what I was used to I’m noticing them more, especially as my heart-beat is now so loud! As I am obviously worried about it she booked the 24-hour ECG and is also going to book me in for an ultrasound scan (somewhat confusingly otherwise known as an Echo) just to make doubly sure that all is well.
I’d already emailed the nurse about the pins and needles and she had asked my consultant about it, but neither of them think that the pins and needles are related to my heart, so the pins and needles mystery continues.
Anyway, the nurse is very happy with my progress and is fine about me going back to work. Unfortunately, I’m still going to be wearing the ECG monitor when I go and see the Occupational Health person tomorrow and I’m a bit worried that its presence might make them think that I shouldn’t be at work. I shall make sure to tell them that the relevant medical professionals say that its alright for me to go back and hope that helps them make their decision!
Just talking to the nurse today made me feel better. She’s been doing her job for a long time and understands all the concerns that patients have, and she’s not afraid to ask questions that need to be talked about, such as ‘are you afraid that you’re going to die because of this?’ even if you don’t broach that subject yourself because you think she’ll think you’re silly. I am sometimes afraid that I’ll die because my heart will pack up suddenly (or indeed slowly). More often I don’t think about dying as such, but I have related but peripheral fears. I’m afraid that my heart will go wrong again, that I’ll break it somehow and ruin all the work the surgeons did, that I’ll never get back to ‘normal’, that I’ll overdo things, that I won’t do enough, that I’ll waste the chances I’ve been given, that I’ll let people down. I know some of these things might sound odd or silly, but they’re an illustration of the way my mind’s been working. It was a relief to talk to someone who has the relevant medical knowledge as well as a good understanding of the emotional side of having a heart condition and having and recovering from surgery. Clinical Nurse Specialists deserve lots of pay and chocolate as far as I’m concerned!