Approaching the holidays with a broken heart

Broken heartLast March I began experiencing symptoms that landed me in the emergency room for a couple of hours, but blood tests and an electrocardiogram ruled out a heart attack. That was good news! But I discovered that things move much more slowly within the National Health Service (NHS) of Britain: routine tests that would have occurred within forty-eight hours in America have just been completed this week, nearly eight months later. Every subsequent test—like the treadmill stress test or echo cardiogram or angiogram—has a waiting list of several months. Sometimes it takes two or three weeks just to find out one’s test results.

As a precautionary measure until more conclusive tests could be completed, doctors placed me on the same medications as a heart attack victim. It was really scary, because I couldn’t walk a hundred yards without stopping to catch my breath (and reaching into my pocket to make sure I had the nitro spray, just in case). And all the medical community could say with certainty was: “It’s probably just angina.” The symptoms disappeared after eight weeks. My doctor felt that the prescribed medications were just doing their job; but I was hoping for a more optimistic outcome. Earlier this week those hopes were dashed as an angiogram pulled back the curtain, so to speak, and revealed some serious heart disease that probably has more to do with genetics than anything else. Continue reading