That Friday in ITU where I saw Alexandra seemed like a bit of a turning point and from then on they started taking out all of the lines going into my body – I had a few in my neck and my arms. I had a shower for the first time on the Saturday and started being able to walk a few steps. On the Monday I had my catheter out, which was the last step towards being able to go up to a ward. I finally had no lines going in me at all! The downside of that was they had to stab me every time they needed blood from me rather than being able to take it from an existing cannula but at least it felt like I was getting back to ‘normal’. The following day I was transferred upstairs to the cardiology ward, again in a side room but this time with my own en-suite and a view of outside! Okay it was only of roads and traffic, but I could see the helicopter landing and it was just amazing to see the outside world.
I stayed on the ward for a week and a half, although it felt much longer. The pace of life there was so much slower than ITU where I had one-to-one care and so much was going on. In a lot of ways it was fantastic because I could sleep better and I knew I was well on my way to getting home, but it also meant time went so slow. I’d be watching the clock waiting for my mom to come in as she was always the first visitor in the day. I’d already had an angiogram which had showed there were no clots left in my arteries – which is what we expected but of course good news – so now it was just a wait for a slot to get an MRI scan to see what damage had been caused to my heart. Once I had that it confirmed I’d had a heart attack at some point when I was very poorly, caused by a clot in one of my arteries (not by lifestyle such as high cholesterol or smoking which people traditionally associate with heart attacks) which had left some of the muscle dead and some stunned. The hope is eventually my healthy muscle will start overcompensating for the dead muscle and the stunned muscle will wake up, but at the moment my left ventricle is pumping blood around my body at a rate of 25-30 per cent when it should be 55-60 per cent. So now it’s a case of heart meds for life, cardiac rehabilitation classes and regular monitoring to see how it’s repairing itself, if it does.
The doctors had been saying they hoped to get me home at the end of the following week but, although I was excited, I didn’t dare get too overjoyed in case it didn’t happen. Even on the Friday morning when they had confirmed I was being discharged, I kept saying I wouldn’t believe it until I was walking off the ward. Well come 3.30pm and that’s exactly what I was doing. They asked if I wanted a wheelchair to get to the car but I wanted to walk out of the hospital myself. When you’re recovering from an illness you have to be motivated and determined, and what could be better than ending my hospital experience walking with my amazing other half to go home to our perfect baby daughter, when three weeks previously the nurse who first looked after me when I arrive thought there was no way they’d keep me alive.
I now face a long journey to get back to full strength, they say around a year to recover after a stay on ITU, with the added complications of my heart and hand and the knowledge I’ll be on medication for life. But I’m sat here writing this while Alexandra sleeps soundly near me and I’m waiting for Dylan to come home from work. Being able to be part of this family is an absolutely blessing and I will truly always be so thankful for whatever it was that made me pull through – the medical teams, luck, my age, a combination of all that and other factors too. Who knows? All I know is I’m very happy the journey didn’t end there and although all of us have been through an ordeal, it’s made my relationships with my loved ones stronger, it’s made me feel stronger. There will be bad days as we all process what’s happened but there will also be so many good days as we all watch Alexandra grow and I get to do all the things I always wanted to do with her and so nearly never got the chance to.
So thank you doctors, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, everyone at both hospitals who really did save my life. Thank you family and friends, especially my mom who was at the hospital daily. Thank you Dylan for being an absolute rock, for being ‘Mr Mom’, for everything you’ve done and continue to do for our family. Thank you Alexandra, your pictures all around my hospital room are why I fought so hard to get walking again, get mobile and get home to you my precious little lady.
Harriet and Alexandra x