xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Kryssie Fortune: 2001 - A Heart Odyssey

Saturday, 9 May 2015

2001 - A Heart Odyssey

“The odds aren’t good,” the heart specialist said.
The surgeon told me, “Make your peace with your family.”
Were they talking to me? I’d been a bit breathless recently, but I was just out of condition—wasn’t I?
Apparently not.

My aortic heart valve was on the verge of collapse. Not that I believed it. I was the strong one who supported others. My son was in the final year of his Maths degree, and exams loomed. I couldn’t die on him.
My daughter was a nationally ranked junior athlete, one place below making the British team. The county championships loomed, and she was on course for a new county record. I wanted to see that.
I wouldn’t let my kids down, but dying… that’s a whole other ballgame.
I’d asked my husband to ring the doctor because I felt too weary to get out of bed. I’ll never forget his reaction.
“How do I do that?” he’d asked.
 I’m the one who panics after the event—after everything’s done and dusted. My husband, Alan fell apart at the thought of me being ill.
Fortunately my daughter, Helen, was home, and she rang the doctor. She didn’t get things right though. She made the doctor agree to see me before his morning surgery if I got there in the next quarter of an hour.
I dragged myself out of bed, struggled into a jumper and pulled on some trousers. Alan had to help me downstairs. 
The drive to the surgery was an ordeal, but I made it in time. Just. The doctor examined me, even listened to my heart. I didn’t care. I just wanted to rest.
“You’re a bit of a puzzle,” my GP told me.
Great. If I could only get a bit more sleep then I’d be up and running, I thought.
“You should get the hospital to check you out,” he finished.
Hospital? When I was just a bit weary. It seemed like an overreaction, but I was too exhausted to argue. Off we went to the hospital casualty with a note from my doctor that I needed to be seen urgently.
The hospital lost the note, and I spent twelve hours in casualty on a stretcher. At least I could sleep. Finally, I saw a junior doctor who put me on a drip and went for a second opinion.
He called in a specialist. Not that I cared. I was resting. Alan stayed with me all day, not even leaving my side to eat, but we sent the kids home when they arrived. After all, it was nothing serious. I’d just been doing too much recently.
The specialist listened to my heart.
“Get her off the drip, now.” He ordered.
Putting fluid into me only put more strain on my heart, but I was too worn out to realize that. 
Me? I just wanted to go home after I’d had a bit of rest.
Scans, E.C.G.s, and a plethora of student doctors later, the specialist sat next to me. His face was solemn, his posture upright and still.
“Can I go home now?” I asked.
“You’re really ill,” he told me. “Your heart valve needs replacing but you’re too weak to withstand the operation.”
Too weak? Me? I was the strong one my family relied on.
“You need to stay here where we can keep an eye on you for a while,” he finished.
Six weeks of house arrest – well a prolonged stay in hospital – was a nightmare. They let me out to watch my daughter compete. Time off for good behavior, I called it. Yes, she set the record, and my son was Yorkshire Champion in his event too.
It’s hard to cheer when you have to sit still and quiet though.
My hospital ward overlooked the university. Often my son would wave between lectures. I looked forward to his 11am salute  
One day he lined his friends up, and twenty students waved at me. How amazing was that?
A few days later, a nurse poked her head in my cubicle. “They’ve scheduled your operation for tomorrow.”
The same day my son sat the final exam of his Maths degree.
I wanted out of there, and I was still so damn tired—but to have the operation as Rob sat his exam seemed harsh. I didn’t have any option though. I needed the hospital’s best surgeon, and his free slots for an operation as tricky as mine were limited.
That’s when my specialist told me to make my peace with my family. Not that I needed to. The surgeon added that my prognosis wasn’t good due to the deterioration of the heart valve.
I felt so guilty when Rob visited and I explained what had happened.
Rob? He held my hand and told me, “It’s okay. You just get well enough to celebrate at my graduation.”
That night, aware I might not have a tomorrow, I wrote to my husband and kids, telling them how much I loved them and how proud I was of them.
A sleeping pill, a pre-op, and one huge operation later, I came round and saw my husband and daughter at my side. Rob was sitting his exam.
Recovery takes time, but I refused to be the family invalid. 
Gradually life got back to normal. My son got the second highest marks in his year, and a first-class degree. I was there at the degree ceremony in my smart new outfit, applauding proudly.
Now, 14 years later, every day is precious, and I chase my dreams. I’ve toured classical Greece and Italy. I’ve visited the Orkneys and crawled inside ancient tombs. Loose iD have published fie of my books. Did I mention Rob’s married now and I have an adorable four-year-old grandson?
Life is amazing and I’m living it to the full. 

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