So where to begin, well the beginning is probably the best place – cue wavy lines and hazing out as we jump back in time.
Before July 2014 I was what some might call a type A personality, I can hear my husband laughing and muttering ‘you still are’ under his breath. I was a highly ambitious executive spending the majority of my career working for FTSE 100 companies. My working days were usually between 10 -15 hours long not including a couple of hour commute into the city. My spare time consisted of working on my PhD and occasionally seeing my husband and my 3 step children. I had a Margret Thatcher philosophy of only sleeping for between 4-5 hours a night.
So what happened? I booked a lovely beach holiday for just my husband and I, perfect. We went along to the local nurse for our vaccinations and a short time after that I started to feel unwell. Nothing specific just under the weather, so as we all do I carried on, thinking I have a holiday coming up we can relax then. The holiday came and went and I think I slept for most of it and then came home and went back to life as usual.
About 3 or 4 weeks later I started to get chest pain, which was severe enough for me to text my husband about whilst I was at work in a meeting. (A couple of points you should know: firstly my husband is a paramedic, secondly as far as I was concerned back then if I was still walking and I hadn’t keeled over I was fine.) So I continued my day, ignored the chest pain and down played it when I got home – I am too busy to be ill and I can’t have had a heart attack I am only in my mid 30s and men have heart attacks not women etc etc. That was a Thursday, I made it through to Sunday before taken to hospital. There was both good and bad news, I hadn’t had a heart attack, but my ECG was not normal and showed signs of damage to my heart.
So I was referred to a cardiologist who I saw the following week, he performed another ECG, an echo and a stress test all of which showed damage to my heart so I was booked in for an angiogram the next week. Of course in between appointments I was carrying on as usual, however since the day of the angio I haven’t been back to work since. The angio was a truly hideous experience as I suffered a massive arterial spasm during the procedure, the only time I have ever hit a 10 on the pain scale and when asked to rate the pain the response was a single tear as I couldn’t talk. After a lot of wrangling my very experienced and usually very calm cardiology consultant getting very stressed he managed to get the catheter tube out of my artery. (I am told I am under playing this - it was half an hour of a lot of wrangling, lots of medications being injected directly to the artery and heart and having no effect and I was within minutes of being rushed to surgery.) Though the angio still had to be finished so it meant going in again for another try through a much larger artery.
The result of the angio was that my arteries are as clean as a whistle but the spasm was a clear indicator of Prinzmetal’s angina. So I was prescribed calcium channel blockers and off I went, my cardiologist and I feeling happy that we knew what it was and we had a plan of how to fix it or at least that’s what we thought.