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Tears, Fears and More Tears

A bit of a different blog this week.

Sometimes weeks fly by with nothing to tell you then others have so much in them that they just need to be told, though it's difficult to know where to start

Let's go back to Thursday 22 April this year.  Picture this, I was having a nice easy shift at Home Bargains (remember me telling you I had a little part time job there).  I'm even allowed to work on the tills now so it was varied shift, only four hours and it was very quiet at the store.  I was busy telling my workmates how in the morning I was taking another hike up Ben Ledi as the weather was to be lovely.  Time was marching on and it had already left 7.00 pm.  With my shift finishing at 8.00 pm, I was pottering around sorting the tins of soup into neat rows (the film Sleeping with the Enemy comes to mind here!) and humming along to the music.

"Hang on a minute, what's that heart of mine doing now.  I can feel it beating out of my chest," I thought to myself.  So I took myself for a little wander and forced some deep breaths and grabbed a swig of juice.  "Ohh! That doesn't seem to have made much difference," said a little panicking voice in my head.  Finding myself a little quiet spot away from everyone I sat myself down and took my GTN spray, only to be caught by the manager and a newly qualified first aider who both declared that I looked pretty rubbish.  Thanks guys!

Fast forward a few more minutes.  The GTN spray was tried again and the lovely Kyle soon had my laying on the floor in the staff canteen.  Steady there!  Not feeling too cracking by then, I agreed that perhaps it wasn't a bad idea to phone for an ambulance.  Oh the stress!  All I could think about now was how Mr M would have to be phoned.  There would be an almighty panic.  He'd have to get himself out to Kilsyth to come to see what was happening and he would never let me go out to play up Ben Ledi in the morning!

But along came the ambulance and two lovely paramedics who also agreed that I looked a little grim.  A girl could get a bit of a complex you know!.  To be fair to everyone telling me how bad I looked, I did have every possible sign and symptom you could list for somebody having a heart attack.  However, the little machine they attached me to (after first ensuring that the lovely Kyle left the staff room of course, but allowing the newly arrived hyperventilating Mr M to stay) said otherwise.  A little while later after giving me some of that lovely morphine stuff, the paramedics stuck the blue lights on their van and whisked me away to the Royal Infirmary.

There was no hanging around in casualty for me I can tell you.  Straight into resus it was and the medics were waiting for me, whipping my clothes off and sticking things on me before I even got chance to apologise for my tatty old underwear!  It seemed everyone was indeed a little concerned.  I think I was a bit worried too to be honest.  But whilst they were busy deciding how much more morphine I should be given and what to do next all the pain and other symptoms stopped.  Yes, just like that.  I sat up and told the amazed looking medics that I was ok now, but they thought I was just not wanting more morphine.

They all agreed though that yes, I did suddenly look much better so no more morphine for me.  There was lots of head scratching, ums and ahhs and even more head scratching when my bloods came back showing raised troponins (a protein that's released into the bloodstream during a heart attack).

A bed was made for me in the cardiac ward and yes, you guessed it, no walking up Ben Ledi for me in the morning.  So there I was, a girl feeling a bit fed up, wearing a hospital gown that fastens down the back, only to find that I was to spend the next few days in a ward with five men!  Yes, five men.  Well actually, as I was to find out over the next day, I only needed to be concerned for my modesty with four men, as one of the other patients was completely blind.

Sympathy was shown by one of the nurses though as she went away to find me another gown so that I could protect my modesty a little until Mr M was able to organise a supply of pyjamas and a fluffy dressing gown for me.

Anyway, to cut what's turning into a long story shorter, the consultants spent a couple of days doing more head scratching, umming and ahhing, re-investigating all the results from tests, tests and more tests carried out over the last 18 months to finally decided that I had not had a heart attack and, wait for it, nor was the event on Ben Lawers a heart attack.  "Blooming heck!" I thought.  "I'm going to have to re-write my book now!"

Between all the consultants they have now decided that I have developed a chronic condition, apparently common in us women of my age (which is of course 25!) called Coronary Vasospasm.  Quite simply, my coronary artery goes into spasm giving the same effect as a heart attack.  Oh, wait for this too.  When I discussed with the consultant all these events occur when I'm at rest (even the mountain event as you remember), she confirmed that yes, this is when they will happen, not when I'm doing anything physical.

So I'm now at the stage where I am deemed fit to hike up and down mountains, bake and work but I'm a nervous wreck at the idea of having a lie down on the couch, standing around doing nothing or even going sleep in case this silly artery of mine decides to go into spasm again.  But I'm on a new set of drugs now to try to prevent this happening again so let's see what happens shall we.

Of course to test out this theory that I'm all good to climb mountains I did take myself back up Ben Ledi on Sunday 2nd May just to be sure.  Setting off from home at 6.00 am to ensure a spot in the tiny car park, I was away walking up the hill by 7.00 am.  And what a glorious time I had too.  The views were amazing and I felt brilliant.  I was quite nervous about the whole thing but as I discussed with Mr M the night before, if I didn't get myself back out up the hills I was at high risk of developing a ridiculous fear of walking the high hills.  By 3 pm I was back home, showered and being pampered by Mr M.  


Meanwhile in the background to all this, I'd been worrying of the rapidly deteriorating health of my step-father, John, who had been in emergency care since just before Christmas due to sudden on-set dementia. 

John became my step-father quite late in my life and I was already in my twenties with two children of my own.  As John joined our family he inherited not only step-daughters but also some step-grandchildren.  He took us all on without objecting.

Some of you may remember meeting John at the tearoom during some of his visits to stay with us over the last few years.  John had been in the merchant navy most of his working life and spent most of that time as Chief Engineer.  What tales and photos he shared with us of his amazing journeys around the world, including how he had to calculate the best way to get these enormous ships down the Suez Canal.  I'm proud to say that boats he was in charge of never blocked that very narrow shipping canal!

I learned so much from John over the years including how to know where I was based on flashes of a lighthouse or the blasts of a fog horn.  He also shared my love of maps and many an hour or two was passed with us looking at different maps - real paper ones of course, not the on-line versions.

John's condition had started to deteriorate at a rapid pace and on phone calls and video calls it was very obvious that he did not really know who I was.  It was a very difficult situation with John in Hull, me up in Scotland and Covid raging the world making real communication impossible.

My plan was to forget all about the restrictions on border travel between England and Scotland as this was a special reason for breaking the rules and planned to travel to Hull on Thursday last week to see John before it was too late.

Fate had other ideas though.  Tuesday teatime I received a call from the home saying that they felt Thursday would be too late and it would be better if I came tomorrow (Wednesday).  That was a total shock to me and I dashed up to the trains station to get a reservation on the first train leaving Croy in the morning which, with a couple of changes on the way, would get me to Hull for 12.15 pm then a 10 minute taxi journey to the home.  

It was obviously a bit of strange journey down on the trains with lots of thoughts going on.  I had several phone calls from the home en-route asking of my progress so I knew time was of essence now.

Arriving at the home, I was met at the door and I knew instantly that I was too late.  "He tried to wait for you but he just had to go", I was gently informed.  I arrived at the home at 12.30 pm and John had died at 11.10 am.

So that was it.  I was too late to see this fantastic man before he passed away.  The home reassured me that he did know I was on my way and he smiled when they told him.

I sat alone for a while with John and had my goodbye chat with him and shed my lonely tears.

With all the relevant phone calls made I made my weary way back to Hull Station to get a ticket for a long return journey back to Scotland.  But no, that wasn't going to happen.  With Covid you had to have your seat booked in advance for the cross border train and there were no more seats left for the day but I could have one for the following day.

So I made the best of a bad situation, booked my train from for the following day and caught a train over to Halifax to stay with my daughter rather than spending a lonely night in a travel lodge in Hull city centre.

Now I'm back home with a funeral to arrange.  Of course, I have the lovely Mr M and my children to support me during this so all will be well.

There will be tears and then there will be more tears.  Indeed, at work today looking at the Father's Day cards and presents I shed a little tear at the realisation that I have no father and now no step-father to celebrate Father's Day with.

I know I'm not the only person in this situation and I think we all have to be a little nicer to everyone we meet.  A smile and a gentle word could help somebody get through the next few minutes.  Please, none of this, "smile, it might never happen" that I hear so many times.  You really don't know what has happened to take somebody's smile away. 

John had an incredibly sweet tooth and loved being able to sample all my cakes and bakes and try out new treats.  So I'll get my apron on and get baking and wonder what he'd make of my new bakes.  One of his favourite treats was a vanilla slice so perhaps I'll just have to get on and make some of these.

Meanwhile, thank you everyone for your kinds words (and your patience at having to wait for your cakes!).  They really do make a difference.

John's favourite singer was Enya so the song for today's blog has to be "So I Could Find My Way", by Enya.




  • Debra you are a marvellous woman, with all that has gone on you still managed to make me smile reading this❤️. Sometimes life throws lots of challenges, be gentle and kind to yourself. John sounds like a lovely man. Big hugs 🤗

  • So sorry to hear your news Debra. You’ve had a tough year. Hope all the funeral plans go well. Take care xx

    Nadia Alonzi
  • Thank you for sharing most eloquently-you are a strong woman so I know you will manage your condition. Sorry for your loss -never easy -best wishes x

    Mairi Macintosh
  • Oh Debra! <3 Poor ya! Although I AM sure glad it wasn´t a heart attack after all. You´ll learn to manage your condition, trust me, as I´m speaking from experience as another heart patient here.

  • You have been on an incredible tsunami. Life takes on a journey we least expect. You have been very much in my thoughts. You are a very special lady. Go gently

    Muriel Connell

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