That was the week that was

My hospital bed © Ricky Yates

My hospital bed © Ricky Yates

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 to 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.

23 comments to That was the week that was

  • Hi Ricky,
    Thanks for sharing about your experience last week–sounds like it was pretty scary. Jiri and I are relieved you will be OK!

    We’ll be back to church one of these days. I’m not very mobile right now, and am going through tests to see what’s up.

    Take it easy–you’re in our thoughts and prayers,

    • Ricky

      Hi Sher,
      I thought is was better to write up the whole story rather than having to keep repeating myself in a series of emails. Yes – it was a little scary when I was so breathless on the morning of Sunday 2nd. However, I am now on the mend but still feeling like a pin cushion – two further needles at the GP surgery this morning 🙁 Hope you will be feeling better & more mobile, very soon.

  • Allan Schoenherr

    Hi Ricky,

    So extremely sorry to read of this nasty ordeal you have been through but very glad that you were well enough to write this post afterwards. I hope the recovery goes as well as it can, if we can help with anything just let me know.

    I think I echo the sentiments of all members of Prague Barbarians past and present when I say you will be greatly missed on the field but hope we will still see you around off the field. You are right, keeping to our bowling attack and not letting a single bye past is a wonderful way to hang up the gloves. Well done.

    All the best Ricky and hope to see you soon.



    • Ricky

      Hi Allan,
      Thank you for your kind words. My health is improving but it still means regular visits to the GP, (one this morning, the next on Thursday afternoon), whilst the correct INR level in my blood is being achieved.

      I am seriously thinking of offering to umpire next season as a way of maintaining my cricket connections and giving something back to a game I’ve enjoyed playing for so many years.

  • Glad you made it to the doctor and hospital and that they could take care of the problem so quickly! Take care of yourself, Ricky! Yes, just when we think we’ve acknowledged and dealt with our mortality, there’s another layer of that onion to peel away.

    • Ricky

      I’m very glad too, Stephen! I’ve certainly received prompt & high quality care. I concur entirely with the sentiments expressed in your last sentence.

  • Paul Shorten

    Thank you for sharing your experience Ricky and be assured of continued prayers for a full and complete recovery.

    I am constantly amazed at the amount of work and witness you achieve day by day. You live the Gospel both within the Prague congregation as important with outreach in the wider community. Long may this example continue and hopefully, you will be well enough to continue your at Dresden in the new year.

    It is always a real privilege and joy to worship with you at St Clements and each year see the encouragement and Sybille give in the development of a living church.

    Perhaps you could use your cricketing talents to do a little coaching – standing well clear, of course !!

    • Ricky

      Thank you, Paul, for your kind words. I very much look forward to having you worshipping with us once more, later in the year.

      As I said earlier, in response to the kind words of Allan, one of my fellow cricketers, I will almost certainly offer to be a regular umpire next season, as a way of maintaining my cricketing connections.

  • David Hughes

    Pleased to read you’re back on your feet, Ricky. It sounds as if the treatment you received was first-class.

    Umpiring in cricket can be dangerous as well. Last year an umpire in an (the?) Israeli cricket league was struck and mortally wounded by a ball struck at him. Scorer, protected by a canvas roof, would be the safest option.

    • Ricky

      Thank you, David. Treatment certainly was first-class.

      I also read about this unfortunate incident. I do understand that even umpiring can’t be completely safe. Some years ago when umpiring a match in England at the bowler’s end, I moved to one side so as I could judge the attempt at a run-out, only to be knocked flying by the batsman, trying to make his ground!

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    You’ve had quite a week of it, haven’t you? Glad to hear you are on the mend and everything turned out so well for you – as you say it could easily have been fatal! God bless you and keep you and Sybille in good health for many years more. My thoughts and prayers are with you both, Sean.

  • Em

    Ohmygoodness – all of that must have been quite a scare for you and Sybille! I’m praying for you for healing and wellness, and for the doctors that took such good care of you. I visited the Military Hospital about 8 or 9 years ago for an ulcer and the care was excellent. Interestingly enough, one of my doctors had been an Olympic medal-winner in kayaking, I believe. An accomplished bunch!
    Take care of you 🙂

  • Richard

    Worrying to read but glad you are now OK. Take care and sorry about the Cricket!

    • Ricky

      Thank you, Richard & for the prayers of the ICS staff. I’m sorry too about the cricket, but to have been able to still be playing aged 63 is no mean feat.

  • […] embolism – a blood clot in my lung. Rather than repeat myself, if you want to know more, I’ve written up the whole experience on my blog. I’m pleased to report that my health continues to improve & I am most grateful for the […]

  • As I still have vivid memories of that first DVT 10 years ago, I’m so very glad this much worse experience ended so well, Ricky, even if it does mean that you have sadly had to hang up your wicket-keeper’s gloves. It must have been a very unpleasant and rather frightening couple of days and like you I’m so thankful for the wonderful medical expertise we can call on at times like these. Take care and I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday.

    • Ricky

      Firstly, my apologies Perpetua, for taking so long to both approve & reply to your kind comment. However, as you may have realised, you posted the comment a few hours after Sybille & I left for Germany & whilst there, I had no internet access. Secondly, belated apologies for giving you a lot more work at very short notice, when I had that first DVT in 2005.

      This time it was indeed, quite a frightening experience, especially when I became so breathless that Sunday morning. I felt much more reassured and at peace, once I was in the care of the medics, all of whom have been wonderful. I’m due at the GP surgery again tomorrow, for more blood tests meaning more needles being stuck into me 🙁

      We had a great time in Germany from where we returned at lunchtime today. Blog posts will follow in due course.

  • Robert Doolittle

    Ricky: I can sympathize with you concerning being on a blood thinner and the problems it can cause. I am taking a blood thinner (Pradaxa) for an afibrillation condition that my heart beat suffers from. I take this medication twice daily, but in contrast I am not required to have my clotting time tested as in the case of warfarin. I take two additional medications that keep my heart regular, so the probability of a-fib is greatly reduced. Re-hab of my right knee continues with the replacement of my left knee scheduled for Jan. 5 when I can start all over again. Isn’t ageing wonderful!
    I hope you enjoy your visits to Dresden. We found the city breath taking
    Bob Doolittle

    • Ricky

      Bob – Many thanks for your sympathy. Since writing publicly about my recent time in hospital, numerous people I know have told me that they too, have to take blood thinning drugs. I will add you to my list 🙂 Hope the right knee continues to improve & that surgery on the left knee is also successful.

      Dresden last Sunday was a wonderful experience. A blog post is planned!

  • […] further email exchanges and phone conversations, including one phone call when I was sitting in my hospital bed, it was agreed I would officiate at the service on the evening of Sunday 20th September. The […]