Last Sunday morning (2nd August), I was getting dressed, ready to travel by tram into central Prague for our Sung Eucharist at St. Clement’s, when I became extremely breathless. Sybille describes me as ‘hyperventilating’ and I honestly thought I was about to faint. After sitting still for about five minutes, the breathlessness eased. However, by that time, I’d missed the tram I was going to catch, so we agreed instead, that I would drive us to Church as I seemed to be OK when sitting. Knowing what we know now, it was a daft decision!
I somehow managed to both celebrate the Eucharist and preach. But I had great difficulty singing the hymns and other sung parts of our liturgy. I have never missed a Sunday service through ill health in the nearly seven years I’ve been in Prague and I was determined that that record was not going to be broken. But it remains a miracle that I ever completed the service.
Following post-service refreshments, I managed to drive us both home and walk to a nearby bar-restaurant garden for lunch. But I spent most of the rest of the day resting, planning to visit my GP, first-thing on Monday morning.
My GP practice is based three tram stops away from the Chaplaincy flat at Vítezné námestí. It is called Young & Co, as the practice was founded and is headed by Dr. Adriana Youngová, a female Czech GP who is married to an Englishman, Timothy Young, hence her unusual surname. No Czech surname begins with the letter ‘Y’ which has caused me problems on numerous occasions. So I find it quite amusing that the head of my Czech GP practice, courtesy of her marriage, now has the same problem as I do One bonus is that all the surgery staff, know how to pronounce my surname correctly, because of their boss!
On the morning of Monday 3rd August, I was seen by another of the practice Gps, Dr. Hana Škodová. She asked me lots of questions and along with Sybille, seemed somewhat mystified that I had no other symptoms other than being breathless. The practice nurse took blood from me so that various tests could be made. This was the first of what seems like umpteen needles that have been stuck into me this past week, either to extract blood or inject me with various substances. ‘Pin cushion’ probably best describes how my body currently feels I was also sent off to have my chest x-rayed and told that I would receive a phone call later in the day, once the first results of my blood tests were available.
Early on Monday afternoon, the phone rang. It was my GP surgery. One result from the first blood tests indicated that I almost certainly had a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in my lung. I was to call an ambulance and get myself to the nearest hospital emergency department ASAP! The surgery kindly emailed me the test results, with the offending result highlighted in red, so I could print them off and have something give to both the ambulance and hospital staff.
Sybille helped me pack a bag, presuming that I would be spending a few nights in hospital and also called the ambulance. Despite being able to walk into the ambulance, the driver decided I was an emergency case and proceeded to drive me to hospital at high speed with siren blaring and blue lights flashing! So I arrived in the Emergency Department of Vojenská Nemocnice, the Military Hospital.
Once again, needles were stuck into me and blood was taken for more tests. When the results of these tests came back, confirming everything the GP surgery had discovered, I was then sent for a CT scan. Iodine was injected into me , to enable clearer scan definitions, and the machine itself, kindly spoke to me in English, telling me when to hold my breath and when to breathe out.
I was wheeled back to the Emergency Department where the Doctor told me, even though she had yet to look at the scan results, the technicians had confirmed that I had a huge pulmonary embolism. I was to be immediately admitted to a cardiology ward of the hospital.
Therefore I spent from late afternoon on Monday 3rd, to just before lunchtime on Wednesday 5th August, as a cardiac patient of Vojenská Nemocnice, the Military Hospital. During that time, I started receiving twice daily injections into my lower abdomen, as well as taking a once daily tablet of warfarin, both with the intention of thinning my blood and helping the embolism to break up and disperse.
On the morning of Tuesday 4th August, I had an ultra sound scan of my heart which showed it to be in good order, other than a slightly enlarged right ventricle, caused by the embolism. One of the encouraging things that has come out of this whole experience is that nearly every test has shown that my body is in good order. My blood pressure is fine, my kidneys are working normally, and my heart has no problems.
However, on Tuesday afternoon, I had a further ultra sound scan of the lower part of both of my legs. Whilst my right leg is completely OK, unfortunately the scan found several thrombosis in the calf of my left leg. It was one of these that decided to leave the lower part of my left leg, and become an embolism in my lung
Ten years ago, in 2005, I had a thrombosis behind my left knee. But after treatment with warfarin, it completely dispersed and a year later, I was once more allowed to be a blood donor. Therefore the medics are still unclear as to why this problem should have reoccurred, when my left leg has been perfectly fine for the past ten years.
Late on the morning of Wednesday 5th August, I was discharged from hospital. I was given:
A prescription for further twice daily injections into my lower abdomen, the last of which is due to be administered tomorrow morning. I’m grateful to be married to a former nurse who has been administering these, rather than having to do so myself.
A prescription for warfarin tablets, currently to be taken once daily, first thing in the morning.
A prescription for full length compression stockings for both of my legs.
A three page report, outlining what had been discovered about me during my hospitalisation, and outlining various courses of action for my GP.
On Thursday 6th August, I once more met with Dr. Hana Škodová. She explained the contents of the report and the whole variety of further tests that I need to have in the coming weeks. Once more I had blood taken, to check my INR level – to decide the exact amount of warfarin I need to take to thin my blood sufficiently, without becoming so thin that I bleed too easily. I’m due back to see her tomorrow morning.
So after a very eventful week, I am grateful:
Just to be alive! Untreated, what happened could easily have killed me.
For wonderful, high quality medical care, totally free of charge, because I and the Church as my employer, pay into a compulsory health care scheme.
For the prayers and best wishes of so many people.
What does in mean for my future?:
That I will have to take warfarin, ‘rat poison’ as Sybille calls it, for the rest of my life.
That I will now have to be very careful not to cut or injure myself as it will be far more difficult to get any wound to heal.
The end of my cricket playing career as I cannot put myself at risk of being hit by a cricket ball. Therefore keeping wicket for Prague Barbarians CC on Saturday 18th July will go down as my last appearance as a player on the cricket field. Whilst we lost that match against Vinohrady CC, I didn’t let a single bye, so it is an appropriate note on which to end my career.
One final note:
Last Friday, if my arithmetic is correct, I passed the age my mother was when she died in April 1980. But my experience this past week, has been an important reminder of my own mortality. I, and every other human being on this planet, will not live forever. All of us need to live our lives in recognition of that important fact.