A couple of weeks a go I had a heart attack, though I didn't know it at the time. I simply thought it was a more exaggerated version of the chest discomfort I had been experiencing for weeks. When I went to the doctor he diagnosed angina, gave me some medicine and sent me home. That night he called. I was surprised, I thought house calls were a thing of the past past. He was concerned because the results of the blood test he had taken that afternoon had returned and showed I had experienced a heart attack, probably on the weekend - enzymes released into my blood stream told the story (I could imagine one of those CSI animations of the artery wall rupturing and releasing plaque and enzymes into my bloodstream). I should go to the hospital, he said. I felt fine and said I would come see him in the morning. I can't really remember why I chose not to, but lets just say that by Friday that week I had another 'event', this time I didn't take myself to the hospital. I was taken - in the back of an ambulance.
In hospital I waited my turn for an angiogram, a relatively minor procedure involving making a cut in an artery in my wrist, inserting a catheter into into it and feeding the tube up to my chest cavity where a dye is injected that reveals by x-ray where arteries are blocked.
There are usually three outcomes:
1.No heart disease is revealed,
2.Some blocked arteries are shown and can be opened then and there by inserting little balloons with stainless steel mesh 'stents' which expand when the balloon is inflated then stay in place when the tube and balloon are removed, allowing blood to flow through the heart Unrestricted,
3.My case was the final, worst case scenario. Too many serious blockages in all of the wrong places, like intersections. The map they drew me showed blocks of 100% and 80% down to 'minor blockages. of 40%…all of which adds up to a quadruple bypass.
The news shocked me. I am still quite young - mid forties. My reaction was muted, but I couldn't stop a tear rolling from the corner of my eye as I lay there. I worried most of all about frightening my children. My daughter is just nine. My son is 17 and I worried he would be anxious- his mum died of cancer when he was just 4.
The past few days have been quiet and reflective. Waiting in the hospital for news of whether I will be accepted for the quadruple bypass surgery I need (I will find out today - and where I will be placed on the waiting list). My age means I will probably have a lower priority than an older person, but the extent and ongoing pain, even at rest, may indicate a more urgent need. I am philosophical. A part of me is happy to delay - the frightened part, the residual male bullet-proof 'I will be fine' bravado part. Another part of me just wants it over with so I can begin Life 2.0, bypassing the ill effects and getting on with an improved diet and lifestyle. Genetics are a factor too. But there is little I can do about that.
I woke early this morning with a start. I had an idea. For many years I have been, ironically, interested in Men's Health. In 1997 I started an ad agency with a couple of partners and our first major brief was to launch a major cholesterol lowering medicine and to promote a blood pressure tablet for a large multinational drug company. I went on to invent the Family Health Diary advertising programme. So, ignorance is no excuse. I have long known the risk factors for heart disease: 40+…Male…family history. Hitting the jackpot comes as little surprise. A poor diet and not enough activity probably didn't help.
But, back to my idea.
Rather than feeling sorry for myself I'm going to do what I can to help others prevent the need for radical remedies when the alternative is simple and easy to integrate into everyday life.
Pimp My Pump™
My heart will be re-engineered by grafting arteries 'harvested' from my chest wall, arms and legs around my blocked arteries. I had an image in my head of an engine, with tubes and pipes, glistening in the sun. Like the MTV show Pimp My Ride my clapped out heart will have a new lease on life…surgeons are going to Pimp My Pump™
The thing is that radical surgery isn't the only way to achieve a positive result. I want to get the message out to men in their late thirties and forties (and their partners) in a way they can accept and that being aware of heart health and actively taking steps to promote it is far less traumatic than what the next few weeks holds in store for me.
So, stand-by for updates about my plan.
Today I will make some calls to enlist support and help to get the word out. I registered the domain pimpmypump.org this morning - still waiting for the DNS record to populate.