Well that was a post title I didn’t think I’d be writing. But I guess what this is all about before I get into it, is to look after yourself but more importantly listen to yourself. I’m just documenting my little “health scare.” I’m glad of a positive outcome because it’s quite easy to get freaked out when you start getting chest pains and are immediately sent for your first ECG.
I had been feeling chest pains on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I’ve never really had any sort of pain in that area. I had indigestion when I was pregnant, really bad, I was chugging that Gaviscon like it was liquid gold. But this was different. It was the centre of my chest, a little to the left, you know, where your heart is. It wasn’t an all day pain. Just a few minutes of a cramping sensation a couple of times a day. On Sunday, I thought it was weird. On Monday, it was an annoyance. And on Tuesday, I was concerned.
Now depending on where you’re reading this from, you may not have had first hand dealings with the NHS. My mother has worked for the NHS for longer than I’ve been alive. I have more to thank it for than just the service it provides. But it’s been a tough old time for one of our most prized national treasures. Massive budget cuts, crazy long waiting lists, nurses and doctors not receiving the support they need. The last time I booked a GP appointment, I had to wait over 4 weeks to be seen.
So I headed to the doctors to make an appointment. I was thinking I’d have a few weeks to wait, if the pain went away, I’d cancel the appointment and go about my business. If the pain didn’t, the appointment would be ready and waiting. And if it got worse in the meantime, I’d be off to the hospital. It’s chest pain, that’s no joke.
My plans were well and truly scuppered when they said that they could see me that day. It wasn’t even because they knew what was up, the only question I was asked was if the ailment was new or not. Most certainly new and a little alarming. I was seen by the Nurse Practitioner. She asked if I had ever had this pain before, had I exerted myself recently, if I had shortness of breath. As my answer to all of those was no, I figured that I was about to be seen as a hypochondriac. My temperature and blood pressure was taken but curiously she didn’t listen to my chest.
She suggested that I possibly had some sort of inflammation in that part of my body, possibly round my heart but there was no major need for concern. She told me to take 1 Ibuprofen 3 times a day for about a week and all would be well.
I was about to get up and leave when she said she wanted me to go for an emergency ECG. Which was odd because I’m sure she literally just said all was well. But apparently due to my age, my history (?) and the symptoms described she reckoned it would be for the best. I’m not one to follow blindly because someone tells me to do something. However when it’s medical advice, I am inclined to do what I’m told.
I’ve never had an ECG before, as the blog title notes, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I can say was that I was nowhere near prepared.
An ECG or EKG is an Electrocardiogram which is a simple test that can be used to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. I was assured it would be pain free, not much trouble at all.
I didn’t have to wait long until I went into the nurse’s room. She asked me if I’d ever had a ECG before. I replied no and she asked me to lie down. Then she said “Actually, I need to put these pads on your chest, so could you lift your top up?” Of course, I’m not averse to flashing a bit of skin in the name of science. But while my tight fitting long sleeved top was fine for getting my blood pressure taken, turns out it wasn’t quite going to work for this. I pulled my top up, I told you, flashing the flesh for science.
I was quite impressed with myself as my bra actually co-ordinated quite well with my black high-waisted skirt, black tights, and rip-off Doc Marten style boots. If I wasn’t so self conscious, it could’ve worked as an outfit (but maybe not for work and probably best to not come back from lunch looking ready to party).
She waved a couple of the sensors at me. “Oh, I’ll actually need to put a couple near your hips.” Great, this meant I needed to roll down my skirt. Yea because I have ZERO INSECURITIES about my Mum Tum. But as it was a female nurse and she’s trying to help me, I’ll do whatever I need to do. Plus I needed to bet back to work. So I’m half naked (not really). The stupid sensor pads and wires aren’t sticking properly (we are on pack number two) when the nurse, who was new to the practice was like “We didn’t do this at my old job but this surgery puts pads on the ankles too, do you mind pulling down your tights?”
I’m a little miffed and embarrassed at this point but behaved like a good girl. “Of course, no problem, I’m sure you’ve been waiting to see my fuzzy pins all day!”. Firstly, moving and bending down to roll my tights down, knocked off all the sensors and wires that had gone on and secondly, I hadn’t shaved my legs for a little while, it was summer but the weather had been awful so the only person I was expecting to see my legs before they were “summer ready” was my husband. Oh well, I’m sure a nurse has seen much, much worse. So I rolled down my tights. I still had my boots on, a high waisted skirt that had been pulled down and barely a top on, covered in sensors and wires. “Just relax and breathe normally.” Because this is that. Absolutely normal.
Just a nice relaxing way to spend a lunch break from work on a Wednesday.
“It’s not working.” Which is not what you want to hear during any kind of medical test or procedure. Apparently the gentle electric currents they were shooting through me to check my heart, which I could not feel at all, where not registering on their system. The nurse pulled the curtain round to somewhat cover my modesty and said she would be back in a minute. In came another nurse to help, not sure what the privacy curtain was doing because I was in full view of both while they tried to connect the system up.
Obviously, I was understanding. I don’t work with the most reliable IT either but neither me or my customers are usually half naked. They couldn’t get the machine to work so I was asked to get dressed, follow the nurse to the other room and get undressed again. Oh joy of joys, because I was enjoying this experience so much so far.
Round 2 was a little easier as I knew what to expect. Top off, skirt adjusted, belly out, tights down, legs on show and breathe normally. Sensors and wires were placed again and off we went. After all that rigmarole, the test was done within a couple of minutes.
The nurses weren’t able to read the results so I had to stay a couple of minutes in the waiting room. I was promptly advised nothing was wrong, take my Ibuprofen like a good little girl and not darken their door again with my hypochondria! I was actually told there is nothing to worry about. Which was a massive relief although my chest still didn’t feel right after I left.
Having any sort of health issue or worry is all very annoying as I’ve just started trying to be healthier. Sod’s law, indeed. But it was best to not ignore my concerns and use the excuse that I didn’t want to bother anyone, only for my issue to potentially get worse. I have a tendency to just suffer in silence. If have a headache, it takes a lot for me to actually take a painkiller but if the help is there, why should I suffer and not use it? That’s a question I’m trying answer more positively.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me, if anything at all but I’d rather have the investigations and embarrassment and find out, wouldn’t you? Plus, if you don’t go to the doctors for help, you might not end up having such a pleasant afternoon as I had that random sunny Wednesday.
We all have to take better care of ourselves. Maybe it’s not a medical problem that’s your issue. But don’t push aside the things that bother you because then any problem you have may only get worse or the worry of not knowing what is actually wrong will make you ill.
I know there are countries in the world where healthcare is not like that of the NHS. Some people fear going to the doctor because of previous trauma, fear of the outcome or the cost. And that makes me so sad. I’m sorry if that sounds patronising, it’s not my intent. You should be able to trust medical professionals, you should feel safe, you should go if you need to and not worry about money. Even with all the faults of our system, the idea that healthcare should be mostly free shouldn’t be controversial.
Anyway, I’m keeping a keen eye on my health going forward and hope the changes I’m making aren’t too late. I am a true believer in all things that it is never too late. Also, I’m trying to not let my mind wander and turn every pang in my chest into a terminal illness. Which is so easy to do with Dr Google at your fingertips.
Ultimately, I’ve learnt some valuable life lessons from this situation – wear loose clothes, shave my legs more often but most importantly, look after myself. It might seem small or insignificant but I felt much better having my mind put to rest by a professional.
Let’s stay healthy together!
xx Lee xx
Featured Image: Pixabay