A heart-throbbing experience

A pensioner writes: 'What the cardiographer was really saying was that 999 out of a thousand having an angiogram had no ill effects. But still, I tensed up with apprehension.'

Dave Hallsworth

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The cardiographer leaned over my trolley. ‘I am required to bring to your attention that one in a thousand having an angiogram suffer a stroke, one in a thousand have a heart attack, and one in a thousand suffer kidney failure.’

Gulp! My heart immediately started to go bump, bump, bump.

‘Where do I sign?’ I said (us old folk can take it). I lay there in this peculiar operating-theatre gown, made for some twisted-bodied midget, which I had been told to put on ‘back-to-front’ – meaning that the opening was at the front, leaving me exposed to the elements, with just two tiny ribbons at the top of the gown to fasten it.

I was also wearing the smallest pair of paper knickers, that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And why is it that all the little guys get great big theatre gowns which brush the floor, and all those about six foot get the gowns of circus midgets?

Having taken ‘Statistics’ during my first year at the poly, I realised that what he was really saying was that 999 out of a thousand had no ill effects. But, of course, those taking an angiogram should be split into their various types and seriousness. Many probably already had had heart attacks, so any strain on the heart might produce problems. The real odds on something going wrong were considerably less.

I must confess, though, that like the rest of those queuing up, I had started to tense up with apprehension. I became conscious of my buttocks tightening as the rest of my body prepared itself for the ‘sometimes fatal attack’ by tensing like a bow. With some effort, my old yoga relaxation exercises I had learned in the Royal Navy paid off. My brain regained control from my instinctive animal fear.

The cardiographer returned as I was wheeled into the theatre. He was made up like a Samurai warrior, with a lead-lined apron (no doubt to protect his gonads from the x-rays, but what was protecting my gonads? Maybe they thought I was too old to bother). He also wore goggles, a helmet, mask, and full theatre gear.

My primitive self kicked in again and had to be re-quelled. Especially as a reverse telescope thing was made to appear and loomed in on my chest as all the lights went out. Just as I eased off and the process began, a young nurse appeared near my head and started to ‘jolly’ me up – no doubt in an effort to set me at ease. They do realise how patients are unnecessarily apprehensive.

An hour later, as he called a halt to the process, I was wheeled out to await his word. ‘Lay down without moving your head for two hours. You can then sit up without movement for a further hour; you can then get up and sit quietly in a chair for half-an-hour, when you can then go home.’ Of course, I only realised that I wanted to use the toilet once there was no chance of using it for three hours.

The theatre sister told me, ‘Keep that right leg perfectly straight as you move off the theatre trolley. We don’t want it to start bleeding.’ I bent it right away, instinctively, as I climbed aboard the ward trolley – much to the consternation of the theatre staff, who all turned and looked at me in horror. Blimey, we do get ’em, they must have thought.

The doctor then gave me the next scare story. ‘You need an operation on your heart valve to remove the growth. I am required to tell you that five in a hundred of those who have this operation die from it.’ Gulp! Gulp!! To bring into play the old poly statistics, that means 95 of those who have it have a successful conclusion to the operation.

As I looked around the ward, I saw how tense everybody was going in and how exhausted they were when coming back to the ward. They call it ‘patient power’, I suppose. Clearly one of the ways New Labour has empowered us. Next it will be the train ticket office – ‘ I am required to tell you that one in X million train passengers can die from a train crash or at least be seriously injured.’ Or the grocer – ‘ I am required to warn you that one in X million buying and eating butter become obese and subject to heart attacks.’

Thanks daddy, or nanny – we know you have our best interests at heart. But we are wearing long trousers now.

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