Stent plus one

29 Aug 19 was the day I was wheeled into a lab in Royal Papworth. I can’t have been there for much over an hour but that was enough time for a stent to be fitted in my right coronary artery which probably stopped me having a heart attack and might well have saved my life.

My reflections of the year would be more straightforward of course if we hadn’t been hit by Covid-19 and gone into lockdown almost 6 months ago but to be fair I don’t think they would be very different.

After the op I didn’t really have any specific recuperation goals except perhaps to stay alive but I did ask one of the excellent cardiac nurses who looked after me during my rehab program if I would be able to run 5km before Xmas. She suggested that that was maybe a trifle optimistic but I guess it stuck in my mind as a goal of some sort and I duly got there in May. Previously I’d have done it in 30 minutes or less (I was timed at 27 minutes when I did a ParkRun in Wetherby a couple of years ago) and now I’m coming in at 34 minutes which doesn’t seem that bad.

The highlight of the last 12 months has got to be our trip to Indonesia over Xmas and the New Year. The stress of travel was much reduced by flying business class with the excellent Qatar Airways but then we had the experience of the ferry between Bali and Lombok which was hot, noisy and uncomfortable and came with the added worry that maybe our suitcases would be lost overboard or wrongly offloaded at Gilli. They weren’t.

The holiday itself was largely stress free although I did challenge myself twice: once when I trekked up to see the second waterfall at Air Terhune Sindang Gina and Tim Kelep and then later when we walked in 30 degree plus heat on Nusa Penida. On both occasions I was conscious of taking it slow although that was somewhat of a challenge when the heavens opened as we returned from the waterfalls.

Sadly Covid has caused us to have to cancel a May trip to Italy. Fingers crossed that such travel will be possible in 2021.

I slowly increased my running in the gym on the treadmill until lock down put an end to that and I took to running outdoors again. At first it was a little cold but bearable but then in July and August it became a little too hot but fortunately gyms reopened. It’s a measure of how my exercise has changed that pre-stent I used to finish my program with an aggressive 15 minutes or so on the stair master looking to meet ever more challenging goals. Now I finish with 10 minutes on an exercise bike with an eye on my heart rate and keeping it below 100.

I’m also diligent about warm up and cool down and during the latter a couple of days ago another member started chatting. He was also a cardiac survivor but his story made me once again realise how fortunate I’d been. He’d recovered from a stroke but then during an annual check-up an irregularity had been spotted. He was told to stop all exercising and to wait for a call from the specialist. This took some months and when it did he was whisked into Papworth for open heart surgery!

The other side of the cardiac equation is cholesterol and I’ve stuck pretty rigorously to a low sat fat diet. My weight is constant at 66kg or so and although I miss the essentials of a good life (cheese, fish & chips, scones with clotted cream etc) I am enjoying my food. We are fortunate to be able to access, and to afford, a range of good quality fresh fish and fruit and vegetables. Sadly sirloin steak is out but fillet is an adequate substitute.

I mentioned stress in connection with our Indonesia trip and over the recent years I’ve been pretty successful in avoiding it. Although I’ve been busy I’ve never regarded my life as being particularly stressful. However in recent years as I’ve reduced my working and various ‘voluntary’ commitments I’ve sometimes felt my stress increasing as I’ve been frustrated by not being involved.

As of now I’m continuing to work about 2 days a week which is at least good for my bank balance. I am still a county and a parish councillor although I will cease being the former, and probably the latter, at the end of April 2021. And I am a trustee at the Lifelong Learning Trust (née the Morris Education Trust) where I’ve had particular responsibility for shepherding the Cavendish School through its development. That’s given me a few extra grey hairs as I’ve witnessed how difficult it is to work with the DfE.

I’ve had a one year review with my excellent GP Simon Poole and will get another set of blood tests done during September. We’ve agree that I drop the Clopidogrel from my drug regime, it’s only intended to be taken for a year anyway, and that I cautiously stop taking the Lansoprazole which is there to moderate the effect that the other medicines have on my stomach. That’ll reduce my total intake from seven to five which I guess is progress.

Readers of my blog will also know me to be a bit of a data obsessive and I’ve been diligently checking my blood pressure and heart rate every day. I’m consistently coming in around 120/60 and between 45 and 50. That seems OK and should give me an early signal if there’s a problem brewing. Certainly a daily check of such measures would seem to be a bit better than once a year.

Some time ago I’d agreed with my good friend Tony Halls that we’d continue to enjoy life until we were both 90. Looking around me at the success that others have had in experiencing good lives after a cardiac event I reckon that’s still a good objective.

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