June will mark 4 years since I first discovered something wasn’t right. I was playing pool at the time in a competition match for prize money. There was a lot of pressure and my body could feel it. I was winning 1-0 and all of a sudden I started to go dizzy so I decided to have a drink and try and relax. I returned to the pool table to take my turn and next thing I knew the room went black and my heart was racing. I woke up around 10 minutes later not knowing what had gone on. After 2 hours of waiting I was taken to hospital via ambulance. After explaining all of my symptoms which consisted of my heart racing, sweating, dizzy and effected vision, I was discharged with heat exhaustion and dehydration. I didn’t know what to think other than something wasn’t quite right.
The next few days, I felt unwell and underwater so I called into work sick. After being off for a few days I returned to work to be told to go home. They later revealed I wasn’t allowed to return to site until I could prove I wouldn’t blackout again. This made the situation a million times worse. Nobody in the world can prove they will never blackout. My GP even declared me fit for work however my previous employer wouldn’t accept this, so I had to find another job.
From this day forward, I started to get palpitations quite often normally when I was stressed about something. I always remember the time I thought I was running late for work and I had palpitations then for around 5 minutes. I went back to the GP many times just to be told I’m stressed.
The second time I collapsed was at work’s Christmas party. I did not drink much alcohol, just a bit of dancing which led me to collapsing on the dance floor. I got checked out by paramedics who said I was fine and okay to go.
The day of a friend’s wedding was the next event and I attended the evening party. I was having a great time dancing and the next thing I knew I woke up around 5 minutes later in a pool of blood from my eye which I had split from the collapse. I was rushed to Nottingham Hospital and discharged the same day. A letter was sent to my GP. Each time tested my ECG was normal.
My GP finally referred me to hospital under the Cardiology department as I explained I was still getting palpitations. I was put under 24 hour ECGs which showed nothing and then a week long ECG which again showed nothing. My cardiologist made the decision to implant the reveal device. At this point, my heart was becoming progressively worse. Only 2 days later, I received a call to get to hospital right away as my cardiologist wanted to see me. He gave me a low dose of Bisprolol to try.
The tablets seemed to be working for a while however after some time the palpitations returned faster and harder than ever before. It was winter 2016 and it was cold outside and my heart began to palpitate whilst de-icing my car. From here I knew this was going to be a bad day. I was midway through my warehouse shift and I felt dizzy. My heart raced and I went blind. My vision returned blurred however I held my fingers close to my face and couldn’t see them. I knew this was serious, I was sweating like I had done a marathon.
I wasn’t thinking straight at all. I decided to call my doctors and ask for an appointment and I strangely got one! However, my team leader stopped me and made me ring 999. I’m one of the people who are very reluctant to dial 999 for some reason. I didn’t feel this was important enough. The ambulance arrived in super quick time with a cardiologist who plugged me in. It was at this point we realised how serious this was. My heart was racing at 288 beats per minute. I remember him saying to the crew get the stretcher this is serious. At this point my hands were blue due to lack of oxygen in my blood. When chatting to the cardiologist who told me the situation he said two sentences which will stay with me forever:
“If you were any older you wouldn’t have survived this”
“If you do go then I’ll do everything I can to get you back”
I asked questions like “will I be okay?” He didn’t reply to them.
We made the trip to the Royal Stoke and the Resuscitation team managed to calm my heart down and move me into the Coronary Care Unit. I was being observed for several days with the odd run of palpitations and odd beats here and there. After a few days had passed, I was moved onto a ward and then my tablets increased to the maximum dose with the view to go home. I wasn’t happy with this as the tablets were having a bad effect on me with the side effects such as feeling down and not wanting to do anything. I stayed in because I refused to be discharged, this proved to be the right thing to do.
Later that evening, my heart played up again with long runs of palpitations setting off the alarms connected to my chest. That same evening whilst resting, it happened again so the doctors decided to run an ECG whilst having a 1 to 1 supervision-this lasted for 12 hours. The ECG showed where the problem was and put me in for MRI scans first thing. The results showed a scar in between my heart and heart wall which created these palpitation beats.
My Cardiologist decided to put me in for a VT ablation. I was told this would be a short operation in which they would go through my groin in the artery leading to my heart ablate the affected area, which is burning on the area which was causing me problems. However when this was taking place, my heart went into overdrive which caused me to blackout twice which resulted in a shock from the defibrillator. I remember waking up and thinking I’m not coming out alive. This made me think of the people I love and the last things I did and said to them.
We discovered the operation was unsuccessful and we needed to act differently so he placed me on two drugs and offered me an ICD (implantable cardiac defibrillator). I accepted this and had the device implanted. Since then (touch wood!) things have been great and I’ve only had the odd run of palpitations. I’m still being monitored 24 hours a day by my device which transmits data back every day. Not only does it provide me with a shock if ever required but pacing to help my runs of VT.
Before leaving hospital, me and my fiancée analysed life and how precious it is. We decided to try for a baby when I was fit and well. Natasha was my rock and helped me every step of the way. We have since had our baby girl who is now 9 weeks old. Life couldn’t be any better-I was so lucky! Now my defibrillator sends daily data from my heart’s activity for them to analyse-this is so clever and impressive. If any problems are found, they give me a call. I now take 2 types of tablet (Flecainide and Bisoprolol). I take these 3 times a day, they are so good and I feel a huge difference.
Whilst I was in hospital, I had a text to say one of my friends had been rushed in too, due to his heart, but he didn’t make it. His brain was starved from oxygen for too long. The decision was made to switch off life support. I was thankful to the staff for letting me say my goodbyes even though it carried risk. I still carry Carl’s poker chip in my wallet as a good luck item. It’s working so far! Carl’s parents made the hard decision to donate his organs. Today he’s saved many lives. How amazing!
If my experiences taught me anything it is that life is too precious and short. So, live it how you want to! Any concerns you have whether it be your heart or any part of your body always get checked out. Sometimes the smallest symptoms can lead into something much greater.
I would like to give a special mention to the Cardiology team at the Royal Stoke University Hospital who looked after me every step of the way. Thank you also to Dr Morley Davis you has given me the chance to live a normal life which I will forever be grateful for.
If you’re in doubt about your heart and you feel the doctors aren’t doing enough or going in the wrong direction, don’t take no for an answer. I’m lucky enough to tell my story.