"Heart Attack Treatment"

About: Musgrove Park Hospital / Cardiology South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust / Emergency ambulance South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust / NHS 111

(as the patient),

In September 2017, while on a caravanning holiday in Saumur, France, I suffered a mild heart attack. I was initially treated locally before being transferred to the specialist Coronary Care Centre in Angers where I was given an angioplasty, during which two stents were inserted in one of my coronary arteries. During the procedure, another narrowing was identified and flagged up for future reference.

Upon my return to the UK, I was given a thorough check up and pronounced fit and well. The only long lasting effect of the angioplasty was being prescribed anti-platelet (blood thinning medication) for twelve months. Life quickly got back to normal and my wife and I continued to enjoy our busy retirement right up until four o’clock one Sunday afternoon in March when I experienced the rather sudden onset of a splitting headache and what at first felt like a particularly uncomfortable bout of acid indigestion. I took myself in from the garden and downed two Paracetamol before chewing on a couple of antacids. I had to sit down then as the pain behind my breast bone got steadily worse.

Within minutes, I realised that, far from suffering from indigestion, I was having a heart attack. I called my wife who, after taking one look at my frighteningly pale face, dialled 999. Her prompt reaction not only saved my life, but also greatly improved my chances of a successful recovery. After a quick assessment by the call handler, an ambulance was dispatched. During the very few minutes it took to complete the phone call, I broke out in a cold sweat and was overcome by waves of intense nausea while my pain reached a level of intensity I have never experienced before and hope never to experience again.

Within minutes, two extraordinarily calm and professional paramedics arrived and, after a swift but thorough examination and an ECG (electrocardiogram), confirmed that I was, in fact, experiencing a full blown heart attack. It seemed that the narrowing identified in France had at last caught up with me. The paramedics gave me aspirin to thin my blood and morphine to ease my pain, while telling me that my data had been sent direct to the Cardiology Department at Musgrove Park and that they would be taking me straight there in the ambulance. After an exciting ride through the lanes of Somerset, I was wheeled straight out of the ambulance, up in a lift and straight into the catheter suite where I received another angioplasty and another stent to open up my blocked artery.

The relief was profound and immediate. I went from being very, very poorly to being no more than a bit shattered in the space of a few minutes. Time elapsed from the placing of the 999 call to the insertion of the stent was, by our estimation, a couple of minutes short of an hour. Twenty minutes later, I was comfortably tucked up in bed in the Coronary Care Unit, and three days later I was back home, to all intents and purposes none the worse for wear. The only things I have to show for the experience is a tiny, 1mm scar on my right wrist, and a couple of extra pills to take for a while.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who had a hand in my treatment and recovery; from my darling wife for not panicking and for making that timely 999 call, to the paramedics who were so calm, kind and professional, the surgical team who inserted my stent, and last but by no means least, the nursing staff on the CCU for making my brief stay with them as pleasant and stress free as possible. I fully acknowledge that we in our region of Somerset are extremely lucky to have such a highly efficient ambulance service along with the centre of excellence which is Musgrove Park Hospital. I also acknowledge that the NHS in England is suffering from appalling underfunding along with a raft of other challenges, but at the same time we must never forget how lucky we are.

The NHS is unique in the whole world in its remit and ability to provide first class care absolutely free at the point of need, regardless of the status of the individual. My surgery and equivalent three day hospital stay in France cost in the region of 30,000 Euros, which was luckily covered by travel insurance and my EHIC. On the other hand, my prompt and quite remarkable treatment here under the auspices of the NHS cost me absolutely nothing. We take our NHS for granted at our peril, it is one of the most precious things about living in this country. I was told by my surgeon that the only reason I have suffered no lasting damage to my heart muscle is the speed with which I was assessed, transported to hospital and treated. As he said so eloquently, “time is muscle.”

Responses

Response from Hayley Hughes, Associate Director of Patient Centred Care, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

picture of Hayley Hughes

David,

Thank you so much for sharing your compelling story. You have painted a vivid picture of your experience with your words.

We are so pleased that your treatment, from the prompt actions of your wife to the care in CCU has been successful and your outcome was so positive.

I'm sure other members of staff will respond to your story but I want to assure you that your message will be shared with and will have a positive impact on all staff involved in your care.

We wish you the very best and hope you continue to make a good recovery.

Hayley

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Response from Sharifa Hashem, Patient Engagement Manager, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Dear David,

Thank you for taking the time to share your story and I hope you are recovering well.

It is always rewarding to hear stories of how our staff are delivering care and support to patients and those around them when they need it most.

We would be happy to share your story with the ambulance staff involved in this instance, however, to do so we will need some specific information. If you would like us to do this, please may I ask you to contact us on either plaudits@swast.nhs.uk or 01392 261 534 and a member of the Patient Engagement Team will be happy to help you further.

Thank you, again, for taking the time to provide us with feedback.

Kind regards,

Sharifa

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Update posted by David H (the patient)

Absolutely happy to share with SWAST. I have already contacted them to pass on my gratitude but happy to do more. As chair of our village’s Public Access Defibrillator Group, I have already enjoyed excellent relations with SWAST.

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