My wife and I recently travelled up to London to see our son performing at the Royal Albert Hall as a
member of the Massed Bands of the Royal Marines. Afterwards we walked to a restaurant opposite
South Kensington underground station to meet other family members and to eat. The walk was no longer
than my usual walk ‘round the block’ at home which I complete without any problems 3 or 4 times a
week. It was all downhill and we walked at my pace. However, as we were nearing the restaurant I was
more than ready for the exercise to stop.
When we sat down I suddenly became breathless, I started to have pins and needles in my fingers and toes and my leg calf muscles, I was unable to concentrate and could hardly hold the menu card, I had so little strength in my hands. I also felt awful, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and, strangest of all, it felt as though the top of my brain wasn’t working. Hard to explain and very strange but that’s what it felt like.
After some discussion it was decided to call an ambulance and, with great difficulty but aided by a
convenient handrail, I managed to walk to a chair near the entrance to the restaurant.
The ambulance took at least 20 minutes to arrive by which time I had started to recover. We walked out
to the ambulance where they did all my vitals; BP 137/90 which dropped to 120/60 over the next ten
minutes, blood sugars good, oxygen level at 98% and ECG good. The paramedic commented that it was
difficult to analyse meaningfully because it was being masked by my pacemaker but it looked
acceptable. I was also able to supply her with my latest ECG printout and prescription which I always
carry in my wallet.
Now pretty much fully recovered and with time fast approaching for our coach to leave for home, we
discussed calling it a day. However, the paramedics said the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital was
‘just around the corner’ and they would be happier to hand me over for further investigation. It must
have taken us at least 20 minutes to get to the hospital and, once there, I was assessed very quickly. They
found nothing but wanted to do blood tests in case I had had a minor heart attack. As that normally takes
at least 4 hours for the results to come back and is often followed by a repeat test which would take
another 4 hours, it would mean an overnight stay in hospital. That would have caused all kinds of
logistical problems, we had no overnight gear and my wife would probably need to find accommodation.
Now for the irresponsible bit!
I discharged myself, we hailed a taxi and were at Victoria Coach station with minutes to spare before our
coach departed. The sensible thing to have done, of course, would have been to stay and have the tests
but I had been in this situation at least five times before and they had never, ever found anything. I was
also feeling absolutely fine by then so I signed the form and we left.
On Monday, I spoke to my Heart Failure Nurse and explained the situation to her. She said she would
take it up at the afternoon team meeting which she did. Fortuitously, a senior consultant who knew my
case was at the meeting and, after some discussion, it was decided it was an ‘aberration’ caused by
low blood pressure possibly brought on by the adrenalin of being at the Mountbatten Festival of Music
followed by the walk! Possible I suppose but rather extreme! Anyway, in the absence of other data that’s
what they went with. The senior consultant had asked the pacing clinic to check the relevant daily
downloads from my pacemaker bedside monitor and nothing unusual was shown there either.
I didn’t receive this information until late the following Monday afternoon so first thing Tuesday morning I telephoned AllClear Travel Insurance to report my ‘unplanned hospital visit’ and was pleasantly surprised that the increased premium was only £46.30. Mind you that’s more than 50% extra on the original premium! We were booked to fly to Egypt for my daughter’s wedding so this unplanned hospital visit was a great worry to us as I knew it could increase the premium to the point where I could not afford to travel. Well done AllClear! Of course, the decision to travel to Egypt is not just a medical one. Family members will be concerned and my being there means additional considerations as to what I can and cannot do as far as the schedule is concerned. On the other hand, it is only for 4 days and really I’m feeling fine. Mind you, we will use the airport assistance service! They are usually very good.
This disease is such fun, don’t you think?