Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A lot of people just drift off

The MRI scan was very strange. It looks a lot like the CT scanner in that it is another white tube that you are taken into on a rolling bed. But this time I was given ear plugs and had padding placed around my head both to dampen the noise and keep my head still. I was told that it did not matter whether I kept my eyes open or closed but a lot of people drift off as it takes twenty-five minutes.

My only contact with the outside world was a small mirror - a periscope that allowed me to see the operators in their booth. That and a tinny voice that would announce 'The next session is about to start. Five minutes for the next one. . .' It all felt like something from a sci-fi movie - but not in a good way. It was like 2001 A Space Odyssey.

'Hello HAL. Do you read me HAL?'
'Affirmative Chris. I read you.'
'What's the problem?'
'I think you know what the problem is as well as I do.'

Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. Initially I could not see how anyone could drift off under such circumstances. The noise is incredibly loud. DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH. At first it was a series of electronic squeaks and bleeps, like the ultrasound chatter of dolphins and bats. The rest was like some kind of hideously repetitive 1990s electronic dance music - or a pneumatic drill next to my head. DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH. But as it went on, I could see how one might fall asleep. The rhythm is very intense and loud, but also very hypnotic. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out. Solid gone.

'Daisy, Daisy. . .give me your. . .answer do. . .I'm. . .half crazy. . .' HAL's slowing voice in my head as he is being disconnected.

The registrar who had seen me earlier returned when my wife and son were visiting to tell us that the MRI scan showed that there was indeed a carotid dissection. This was an immense relief to me. I had a dread that they would find nothing and go on some long fishing trip round my body to discover the cause of the clots. It had a name. It felt smaller immediately.

My wife almost fainted as he described the dangers of a repeat of the incident and my son looked like he did as I was leaving the house for the hospital. They both looked pale, tired and overloaded with stress. I wanted to wake up and find it was all a dream and felt angry with myself when I thought of the friends and family members who had endured far worse hardships recently. Get a grip.

I had been walking around and popping downstairs to buy myself a paper and a coffee and fully expected to leave hospital that day. All that was to end. I was prescribed bed rest and told to take it easy. They were going to keep me in. Had I suffered any more ill effects? If I noticed a loss of sight in my left eye - like a black curtain descending - I had to let them know immediately. I assured him that I would.

So far I had been on a regime of aspirins in the morning and statins at night. On the Tuesday I was given my first dose of anticoagulants. One was in tablet form - warfarin (I lost count of how many times I was told that this was originally marketed as a rat poison) - and the other in the form of an injection of clexane - to the stomach.

Warfarin has the perverse property of actually being a clotting agent initially and so clexane has to be administered until you have enough warfarin in your system. While the clexane injection is not so bad, I hated lying there and letting someone stab me in the stomach with a needle. I wanted to grab the nurse's wrist. And it was one of the few times I wished I was fatter!

Also the injection really hurts afterwards. In fact it is very like a wasp sting in its effect. But I had only to look at my two neighbours to remind myself that I had very little to complain about in terms of discomfort or pain. And the effect doesn't last long. Even so - I came to dread those injections. How weak I am.

My son went down with a sore throat and cold and so could not come in to see me. Whilst he certainly did have a cold, we think it was also the stress of seeing me taken into hospital and of seeing the shocking state of those around me. The cold meant that he was banned from the ward and it was probably no bad thing. My wife's stress was merely increased though, as she now had to go back and forth between us, tending to our differing needs, and getting lost and exhausted in the process. 'I'm half crazy, all for the love of you. . .'

The days went by. Lights out at ten or ten thirty, woken at six for blood pressure checks, blood taken at eight or so, warfarin tablets and a clexane jab in the evening, statins at night. Marks & Spencer salads and homemade sandwiches from my wife for my lunch and tea. Texts and phone calls to my friends and family. Look at the paper or read a book. Watch a little TV. Play solitaire on my mobile. Wonder whether we would be offered a biscuit with our tea.

And what type of biscuit would it be?


  1. Isn't warfarin the one they recommend taking with red wine?

  2. I was trying to get that thought past my wife earlier. I get the impression that it is actually better to have a glass of red wine every day. Which is tragic of course, but if I HAVE to. . .

  3. That was mightily stressful just reading it Chris - I think I will go and have a glass of red wine!
    Best wishes to you and your family.

  4. My mother's been on Warfarin for nearly three years now - it certainly is an amazing drug.
    So will the tear mend itself or will you have to have some magical, medical sellotape stuck on it?? I am in awe of medicine today. We are so lucky.
    Lots of love to your son and wife..I do feel for them both. And powerful WELSH healing vibes coming your way, Chris! xxx

  5. There is nothing worse than being ill, nothing worse than the not knowing, it makes it somehow manageable when they put names to things and they ceaseless being unknown monsters - and the stress as either patient or carer is huge - always. Red wine, definitely :-)
    As for injections - you could take the approach that I did with a nurse many years ago - "Tell you what," I said, "You stand over there and pretend I'm a dartboard and see if you can hit the spot." She became quite adept.
    Take care, keep resting, keep healing.
    Strength to you, your wife and your son.

  6. Thanks. I'm discovering that a great many people are on warfarin, Davena. And hopefully the artery just mends itself.

    I would have cheated and dodged the needle at the last minute, Nicky! Thanks for your kind thoughts. It means a lot.

  7. Hey, I just saw your last two posts. Very glad you're on the mend and, as everyone else has been saying, excellent writing in the midst of it all! Sending hugs xx

  8. I remember clexane. Did you get a great bruise like a map of Australia in purple??

  9. Oh yes. I have a couple of those. They will no doubt develop over the next few days. All the more strange because I rarely bruise normally.