As many have said already, date stamp August 2nd 2014 will be a day I remember for the rest of my life. I fully intend to do my best to live it to the best of my ability.
I left my expat home in Germany for a 3 week business trip on July 21st, arrived in Australia in the Northern Queensland town of Cairns on Wednesday morning of 23rd July. I felt rather good, caught up on a few hours of sleep and I was ready to meet friends by lunchtime. I should add at this point that I regularly fly long haul, or I did! For my work and changing time zones by 8'hours was a regular part of my life.
Later that afternoon, I was swimming in the sea and had some short running races with my friends kids, when I had an episode of acute pain in my chest and back.
I went to the Emergency Department in Cairns where I was told after ECG I hadn't had a myocardial infarction, good news I thought, I was sent away!
5 days later I was speaking at a dinner, and the same symptoms but worse came over me again. This time and ambulance trip to the ED. A CT scan ruled out a brain bleed and a lumbar puncture the next definitively ruled out a brain bleed.
I went to seek a second opinion and also to understand what was causing the pains, but no diagnosis was reached. I decided to leave for home early and rescheduled my flight to 2nd August.
I was ready to leave for the airport and the 8'hour flight to Hong Kong, when I had the third and most significant episode. This was a big one, and I knew I was in trouble. The last advice from the docs at the ED was 3 x Aspirin ( this will be significant later)
I was lucky the ED doc thought of Aorta, and a CT scan was performed, he told me it was not such great news, but strangely I thought that a diagnosis was better than not knowing. Although I didn't know that it was quite as bad.
Of course the nearest cardiac centre was over an hour away and arrangements were started to airlift me by the Royal Flying Doctors Service. I made several phone calls, to my beautiful children, hardest calls of my life, and then prepared for the airlift.
The plane was diverted and I had to wait for a helicopter, time seemed to slow and I became somehow relaxed, and just had confidence in the medics.
I had arterial lines and blood pressure monitors inserted, and soon was ready for the heli.
The heli medics arrived and we were off, the crew flew along the coast, using the stronger night time on-shore winds to help the speed of the heli! The hour and ten minute ride to collect me was reduced to 40 minutes for the return trip with me on board.
We landed at Townsville airport and then an ambulance trip to the Mater hospital, Saturday night around 10pm and a full medical team all prepped and ready to operate. I had two minutes with the surgeon and my last words were " I'm not ready to die, I have too much to live for, do your best please"
I had a Dacron graft, repair to the aortic valve with a small piece of bovine patch, and the repair to one of the carotid arteries and the ascending aorta and arch.
I had 9 hours of surgery, and then a period where they couldn't control the bleeding (large dose of aspirin ?) so I nearly bled to death.. 17 units of blood, many compressions and cooling of my body and 24 hours later it came under control. I was taken back to OR and stitched up in a second operation.
I'm not sure I will ever know just how many times I had come this close to not making it. 5 days later I was brought out of the anaesthetics/coma
I will forever be grateful to the skill of the surgical and nursing teams in Townsville in Australia. Amazing teams and wonderful and humble people.
I'm exceptionally lucky, have mostly good days, but some not so good days, also.
Tomorrow is my first CT scan since the original diagnosis CT.
More about my recover in another blog