17 April 2016 | or 'Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3
Right - where was I? Ah yes, outside the hospital, trying to maintain my sang-froid whilst quivering inside like an epileptic jelly.
We reported in to the reception and were marched straight through into the cardiologist's surgery. Such preferential treatment was deeply worrying. Within minutes I appeared to have wandered into a shoot of 'The Matrix'. A tangled skein of wires connected me to a bank of screens, dials and probes which had more computing power than the International Space Station.
This gave the full multimedia experience. Tracking pens quivered up and down. Screens showed brightly coloured moving images of all four chambers of my heart. Clever little pixillated flashes of different colours showed blood flow through valves and blood pressure at different locations. This sensory extravaganza was further enhanced by the Human Alarm Pheromones (AKA The Stench of Abject Terror) which were squirting copiously from every apocrine gland in my pale, shaking, cowardly, goose-bumped hide. Then she turned the sound on.
We've all seen the medical soaps. We all know what the heart sounds like, don't we. You know, that reassuring Flub-Dub, Flub-Dub, Flub-Dub. Let me assure you that a heart doesn't sound anything like that. Well, mine didn't anyway. Mine sounded more like trying to pump out a calcified ship's toilet. Or a Blue Whale with amoebic dysentery. Strangled squeaks and gurgles alternated with ominous glooping and squirting noises topped off with a sound reminiscent of bathwater going down the plughole. It didn't sound at all encouraging to me.
None of this appeared to faze or worry the cardiologist. Well, it wasn't her heart, was it? She disconnected me from The Matrix and cheerfully informed me that there was no sign of coronary heart disease and that I could carry on with life as normal. My heart was in robust health. Well, almost.
It was in robust health apart from the enlarged left atrium.
And the slight backflow through the mitral and tricuspid valves.
Oh - and the minor pulmonary hypertension.
Only the last-mentioned of these did she consider worthy of even the slightest concern and even that, she said, could be easily controlled with a diuretic.
Giving a diuretic to a man of my age is like giving a muscle relaxant to a teenage boy - a totally unnecessary enhancement of a pre-existent natural propensity. Why do I need a diuretic? Whereas in my youth I used to plan routes by navigating from pub to pub, now I plot out the path that connects the greatest number of toilets. There is a whole branch of mathematics devoted to solving these Travelling Salesman's Problems.
Still - it's better than suddenly keeling over and buggering up the cruising plans for the coming season, so I popped into the chemist, bought another stack of pills to add to our already extensive pharmaceutical armoury and fed the co-ordinates of every toilet within a 20 kilometre radius into our GPS.
Although relieved that my chances of popping off with a heart attack were significantly reduced, there was still the matter of the iron overload threat as mentioned in the previous blog. My blood test results weren't due for another five days, which gave me plenty of time to stew.
Stewing is not helped by the internet. Having already scared the living crap out of myself by researching the causes and symptoms of iron overload I proceeded to fan the flames of fear and despond by investigating the prognoses and treatment options.
All of the possible outcomes threw up irritating logistical problems which threatened to throw our cruising plans into disarray. The most irritating of these was what to do if I was going to snuff it. My woeful lack of preparedness for such an eventuality was demonstrated by the realisation that my will hadn't been updated for over fifteen years, besides which I had absolutely no idea where the bloody thing was.
Even if the worst case didn't come to pass, the treatment options posed further fiendish exercises in organisation and planning. The options seemed be a choice between going into hospital every couple of weeks and having a bucketful of blood sucked out through a needle the size of a tube of rigatoni, or taking daily doses of a chelating agent, which strips out the iron but has almost as many side effects as polonium 210. Both of these treatments require regular and careful monitoring, which is difficult to arrange if you're blundering your way blindly around Europe on a fifty foot boat.
Contemplating one's imminent demise concentrates the mind wonderfully, especially around four o'clock in the morning. I did a lot of lying there at four o'clock in the morning. It occurred to me in the course of these long dark tea-times of the soul that I had been lamentably remiss in not having a well thought out procedure in place, ready to deal with such eventualities - an exit strategy is, I belief, the preferred jargon in the inner circle of Hell overflowing with management consultants.
Even if I didn't shuffle off this mortal coil, there was still the complex matter of deciding on the best course of action to deal with the potential treatments. It was almost certain that we would have to swallow the anchor, at best only temporarily. From there the decision tree expanded exponentially. Sell the boat or mothball it? If mothball, where & at what cost? If sell, where & through whom and at what price? By the time I'd worked my way down five layers of decisions I had seventy two possible decision routes. I stopped there. That way lay madness.
All of this, of course, was contingent on the blood results. I plodded my way nervously to the doctor's and was ushered into the consulting room. The doctor handed the results sheet across to me with a broad grin on her face - they were all normal. All four of them, iron, transferrin, ferritin and iron fixation capacity were all slap bang in the middle of the normal reference range. The world seemed a brighter place.
So, cruising plans are back on track and all's well with the world. And have I learnt from this experience? Will I update my will? Will I even find my will? Will Will find my will if he wills it? Am I going to draw up an exit strategy? Am I likely to take a more responsible attitude to forward planning? Will I turn into a good little Boy Scout and be thoroughly prepared?
All together now, fingers in ears, and: "La la la la, la la la la"