Four years ago yesterday a life episode played out which, although shaking my being to the very core, became a positive catalyst for significant life changes on my part. Transformations which have enhanced my life immeasurably; subsequently, augmenting my self-worth and esteem.
Let me point out this life event, the suffering of a heart attack, could’ve been the final scene of GJ Strachan’s existential plot line. A denouement which would have seen me depart this Vale of Tears a deeply unfulfilled man. A fella who’d have wasted many of the gifts he’d been blessed with for no other reason than apprehension at leaving a comfort zone.
To clarify, although it’s a fact I would have been unfulfilled if that had been my final curtain in 2019, yours truly doesn’t believe I’d have even been aware if I’d have ‘popped off’ at that juncture. It is my deep lying belief that realisation would have been the monopoly of those left behind.
Incidentally, while undergoing the heart attack I was seriously questioning my purchase of a pair of lucky underpants from a market stall three days earlier. The stall owner, I concluded at that point, clearly a charlatan bereft of the spiritual skillset to afford his customers enhanced serendipity.
Anyhow, ditching the morbid plot line for a moment, I clearly didn’t pass on the 11th January 2019… Or, if I did, I’m writing this unaware of that stark fate (akin to Bruce Willis in the movie Sixth Sense).
Sitting here now, consuming breakfast of marmite topped crumpets and an Americano coffee, it’s fair to say embracing a ‘go for it’ approach to life those four summers ago markedly raised my existential brio levels.
GJ Strachan’s verve enriched further by simultaneously removing negative and toxic influences from my life; Individuals who endeavoured to suck the very joy out of my existence.
The last forty eight months, I guess like everyone, a mixture of good and bad times. The loss of my mum in 2021 after months of separate health issues standing out as a particularly dreadful time.
That being said, the growth I’ve felt from the happier times since embracing significantly more positive behaviour post-heart attack has definitely filled some disenchantment voids which festered within my soul in January 2019.
A quartet of years in which I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, drawn 300+ caricatures and learned how to whistle the Liechtenstein national anthem. All achievements which could’ve died with me had the dice rolled differently on that fateful day…. I know it’s a cliche but you really have to live for the moment; chasing your dreams and desires.
Anyhow, below I enclose the three blogs I wrote from my hospital bed in the days after suffering my heart attack… A time when my world was turned upside down, but I took as a wake up call and through a mindset change rose the person I always should have been… Well, mostly!!
Hopefully you find the prose below, written shortly after my life threatening/changing incident as interesting as I did to look back on… Now, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll take you back to mid-January 2019
I’m writing this narrative from my hospital bed in the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI). A patient of their cardiology assessment ward, this imposing medical establishment has been my residence since suffering a heart attack on Friday morning… As I pointed out on social media yesterday, the extremes I’ll go to attract attention are getting ever more desperate, not to mention dangerous!
Despite this, I’m comfortable in hospital and hope to be out of bed on Monday to join up with Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw for one of their daily jaunts down to the women’s ward.
My hospital bed just a quarter of a mile from the Hyde Terrace Maternity hospital where I made my existential curtain call over half a century ago.
It’s currently just gone 3am on Sunday morning. I’m awake courtesy of night sweats and a variety of noises from the entrance of the Accident & Emergency department below my ward window.
This cacophony a mixture of Saturday night revellers, intermittent mooing, recorded voices warning of reversing emergency vehicles and the verbal interactions of A&E patients, orderlies and… err… well, disorderlies. I’m unsure of the mooing’s source, but I’m hopeful it means the milk on my breakfast cereals will be fresh!
After the shock of suffering a cardiac incident, I’m relieved to still be here to pen this narrative. My continued existence in no small way aided from being barred entry into the afterlife for wearing inappropriate footwear….. I knew my habit of wearing frog mans flippers would come in handy one day!
Consequently, I was sent away from the afterlife, told to sort out my footwear choices and not come back until I’d written a best selling book…. The latter prerequisite particularly pleasing my more pragmatic family who ‘supportively’ opine I’ve no chance of achieving that accolade… Meaning they’ll have me around for a while.
I’m gratified to receive many wishes of support on social media about this concerning life event. That being said talk is cheap, what I really want is grapes and barley water while I continue to avoid the sound of a doctor yelling “CLEAR!”
Amongst the noises below at the hospital’s entrance is an intermittent double tapping sound. After much deliberation, I’ve narrowed down the root cause to be either hospital porters tapping taxi roofs to advise them the patient is aboard and they can go, or there’s a short-sighted woodpecker around LS1.
Out of my ward window I look at the south west skyline of the West Yorkshire metropolis I call home. Among my views two of the most famous of the city’s landmarks, the Civic Hall and Leeds Town Hall.
Although unintentional, the twin spires of the Civic Hall, topped by two gold plated owls standing sentry like over Millennium Square, brings to mind an architectural metaphor of Winston Churchill’s V sign made famous in WWII.
The iconic Town Hall designed by architect Cuthbert Broderick is perhaps the West Yorkshire city’s most iconic building. My Leeds born grandad Jack told me as a kid the quartet of clocks told the time in four places globally. As they all exhibited the same time, I questioned my forefather how that could be; a query to which he responded “One shows the time in Armley. Another displays Beeston time, another Hunslet and the front clock face GMT (Greater Meanwood Time).” ***
*** – All boroughs within the city of Leeds.
Anyhow, these have been my first overnight stays in hospital since I was seven years old. Back then I was in a children’s eye ward, this time I’m surrounded by three old guys with cardio issues…… In my tired and confused state I feel as though I’ve been transported into an episode of TV comedy ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.
I’m still Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) in situ following my cardiac arrest early Friday morning.
I’ve been moved twice in the last twenty four hours, which I like to think is down to hospital administrators maximising front line bed resources. Not a consequence of one of the older blokes saying to the ward sister “Any chance you can move that younger guy into another ward…. His jokes are s***e!
I was greeted very amicably by my new ward sister during yesterday’s first relocation. I may, though, feedback at some point her jumping from behind a file cabinet and shouting “Surprise!!” during my initial welcome was irresponsible… Particularly on a cardiac ward.
Overnight I slept terribly. A combination of thinking about this mornings scheduled medical procedures, along with the sound of the three other guys in my ward all snoring simultaneously. Noises that were deeply unpleasant in solitude, but when inadvertently undertaken in parallel by the slumbering men bizarrely formed a wonderfully stirring version of Elgar’s Nimrod (from Enigma Variations).
This morning a medical procedure designed to mitigate against my cardiac vulnerability was undertaken. A two hour operation carried out while I was made predominantly pain free courtesy of a shot of local anaesthetic. A painkilling strategy taken by the hospital as apparently anaesthetic from further afield is less effective.
Being wide awake during the procedure I got a rare opportunity to put my knowledge of medical terms into use. From this spontaneous eavesdropping it was revealed my clackula minstopolos was in better working order than my phinimuim crestabels. Additionally, I also received confirmation a throxal thrimbub manoeuvre should always be utilised when expanding coronary valves.
After around two hours on the operating table I was returned to a completely different (third) ward with a better blood flow and wondering what the crematic tropnosis, undertaken on the fly, entailed….. To clarify, when saying ‘on the fly’ I mean they carried out this element spontaneously. Not I’d received a procedure surgeons had once carried out on actor Jeff Goldblum!
To close I wanted to share a true story which occurred as a result of the following segment from a recent phone conversation with my wife Karen.
Karen – “Is there anything you need bringing to hospital?
Me – “Can you bring a t-shirt for me to wear around the cardio ward please?”
She brought me this!!……. FFS!!
Yesterday evening, laying in the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) bed which’d been my residence since a cardiac episode last Friday morning, thoughts turned to how much I’d missed casa Strachan during this unscheduled tenancy.
A quartet of dusks/dawns where I’d been deprived of numerous sensory comfort blankets. Simple experiences such as witnessing my home’s decorative contemporary canvases and prints of European cities, offset against their easy on the eye ivory coloured living room walls.
Time bereft of bookcase containing vinyl and literary timestamps of a life odyssey which, had I taken the wrong decision and not gone to A&E in the early hours of Friday morning, may’ve been prematurely curtailed.
Gazing out onto the illuminated Leeds skyline, I concluded I’d even missed the slightly off kilter piece of dado rail adjacent to the lounge window frame. A self-made decorating anomaly which ordinarily taunts my OCD – Although never quite enough to make me want to rectify the bloody thing.
Aimlessly gawped at the dark West Yorkshire sky outside, thoughts turned to the medical procedure I’d undergone that very morning. An operation undertaken by a medical team who implanted stents into coronary arteries, sections made accessible via my right radial artery.
It’s fair to say I underwent as astonishing piece of surgery requiring incredible skill and forensic accuracy. A procedure that plays out in front of medics and patient on a large screen adjacent to the operating table.
That being said, I declined the surgeons offer to view pictures of my own surgical procedure as the live action unfolded; informing him instead I’d watch them on Catch Up TV when I got home.
Despite electing not to watch the live action, I listened attentively as the consultant cardiologist led operating team undertook their work. Even though I didn’t have a clue what the heck they were alluding to for most of the procedure, I felt sure my medical wellbeing was in good hands.
A surety that would’ve only been shaken if they’d have planted seeds of doubt as to their medical acumen; such as accompanying their work with the refrain ‘Dem Bones’ – Which mercifully (and quite obviously) they didn’t….. Altogether now-
The finger bone’s connected to the hand bone,
The hand bone’s connected to the arm bone,
The arm bone’s connected to the shoulder bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones! ……..
Their cutting edge remedying of my arterial narrowing hopefully providing me with significantly longer time on this planet…… Or at the very least enough time to finish watching footage of their handiwork on Catch Up TV later.
Back in the ward following the procedure, my blood pressure (BP) was low when first recorded by the nurse. Something she re-assured me was normal under post-op conditions; adding further this would be remedied by drink lots of water.
At was at this point it struck me being anxious about exhibiting BP which was too low exposed me to jeopardy of blood pressure that would be too high. Consequently, I felt it prudent to stop my post-op worrying and thoughts turned to lunch; a much healthier sign, yours truly concluded.
After being discharged earlier this afternoon, I’m writing this narrative from my bed at home. It’s great to be back in my domestic sanctuary, which’ll hopefully provide me with the peace and serenity I need at the commencement of my recuperation.
The last few days have been a figuratively and quite literally a massive shock to my system. In a misguided and rare fit of optimism, at the turn of the year into 2019 I’d hoped my brood would get a brief hiatus from the seemingly endless existential detritus we attract.
Sadly, though, that turned out to be an aspiration too far for karma and his spiteful friends……. Oh, the misguided thoughts of a creative mind!!
Right, where’s that remote control; Catch Up TV doesn’t watch itself?!