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Postcard from the paddock

June 30th, 2012

I’m kicking back in the cardiac ward at the Epworth Hospital. My body is a pin cushion and all my blood has been sucked out. Don’t they know that I have a well-developed aversion to needles and blood? Where is the respect? My heart rhythm has just returned to normal and I’m being sent home. I told the electrocardiophysiologist, Dr Sparks, that I was listening to Enya on my iPhone when it stopped fibrillating. He remarked that Enya would be enough to send anyone into a coma!

Pin cushion

This is not the way I planned to spend my spell. But it is probably worth recounting my journey here. I woke up the day after my birthday with a pain in my shoulder. This was nothing unusual. Last year I was gorging on anti-inflammatories and having physiotherapy on my rotator cuff. And every year in winter my shoulder blade gives me grief from a fracture 40 years ago playing rugby football. After a few moans The Missus dispenses some Panadol. I descend to the bunker to play with my horse racing database. It seems very noisy down here. In fact I can’t hear my tinnitus because my heart is beating so loudly in my head. Cripes! I look at my watch for 10 seconds and count – 21. That makes 126 in a minute. Cripes! I stand up. A bit wobbly. I ascend the stairs, slowly. I report to The Missus that although I am at home my heart is off and racing. She pauses for one millisecond and dials 000.

I walk to the ambulance, foolishly perhaps. My heart rate hits 240. Then settles to 120. To the Epworth, the heart hospital, please driver. The ambos are great. Love horses. Emergency is full and we wait some 20 minutes for a spare cubicle. There is great mirth at the removal of my long johns. I’m hooked up to the 12 lead ECG. Suddenly, there is consternation. Alarms and bells start ringing. Someone says “Oh, shit. What is he doing!” People come from everywhere. I’m rushed to Resuscitation 2. The Missus is taken aside to the family room and told that a doctor will be with her shortly. She knows what that means. My heart rate goes over 300. That’s not a heart rate, that’s fibrillation. “We’re going to put you to sleep.” They’re going to paddle me! My eyes feel wet, but I am not weeping. Oxygen is meant to be a colourless, odourless gas, but to me it smells of panic. All I can say is “Get my wife. Get my wife”. My body is twitching, shivering. I’m cold. Very cold. I stay conscious and just as they are about to anaesthetise me my heart rate reverts. Someone covers me with a blanket that has been heated up in an oven. Warmth! Oh, the sweetness of the warmth. I can breathe. I feel no pain. I’m busting for a wee. I’m still here.

Sparksy comes down to Resus 2 and inspects the ECG. I can fix this, he says. That’s what I want to hear.