Monday 16 June 2008

One month ago today..

..I got a bonus life.

I have no business being here, actually. Providence, sheer dumb luck, call it what you will, fact is that if one was going to have a 95% blocked artery leading to a massive heart attack that left one, for a while, with a heart functioning at about 45% efficiency, the only way one could have planned it better would have been to go check into the ICCU, get tucked under the blankets and then let 'er rip.

Even so, I pulled through this only thanks to enormous amounts of help of various kinds from not just close friends but even from folks I don't really know all that well, some that I've never met in the flesh.

Many friends want to know exactly what happened, and how I am now, and so on. This post ^These posts^ attempts to answer some of those questions.

16th May 2008

Don't really remember how I brought the day in. There was some nonsense verse. Some email. A bit of faff. Nothing out of the way.

I knew that Dr K was to make his monthly visit to check on my brother, John, who has a congenital heart defect, aside from a bunch of other chronic problems. When Dr K (a physician with a special interest in cardiology, by the way) came in, around 2pm, I ducked into my room to grab a smoke and check on mail.

I started feeling uncomfortable — a bit of sudden and acute acidity, it felt like. I went to the living room to get myself an antacid and drink some water. Went back to my room to finish the cigarette. The acidity got worse. I could feel a weird part-numb (yes, I could feel the numbness), part-tingly sensation from my left shoulder to the ring and little fingers of my left hand. I started to get a bit worried. Recollected that the doctor was in the house. Went out; he was wrapping up his visit. Told him of my symptoms. Which now included a sort of heaviness on my chest. Like a rectangular piece of metal had been placed on the left lung. And the uneasy feeling had deepened. It felt now like some serious shit is about to happen. Have you ever had bad news? Really bad news? Y'know, someone cheating on you; a death, that kind of thing. That hollow, gutted feeling you get? This similar. With a larger physical dimension. (A feeling of "impending doom" is what many heart attack survivors describe feeling, as more recent reading has shown me.) He told me that I could get an injection for the acidity, but did I want to get an ECG done to be safe? (Later, someone told me that he had also caught Dad's eye over my shoulder indicating that I was in trouble.) I was sweating by then , and uncomfy enough to agree.

I went back to my room. Put off computer. Got out of grungy shorts, took out clean underwear, trousers, changed into those. (And for some weird reason, I neglected to change out of the equally grungy T-shirt I had been wearing since the previous afternoon.) Pick up phone, wallet; realise I had maybe a thousand rupees on me. Suspected I'd need more. Asked Dad for some cash on the way out. Bharat (who is the lad who we have come in to look after John during the day) was ready to come with me. We walked down the lane to Dr K's car. I remember concentrating on breathing slow and deep. And I was belching every few seconds. And sweating.

We drove down to Sterling Hospital, an old Vashi landmark, newly renovated and spruced up and now rechristened the Wockhardt Sterling Hospital. It's a short drive, less than five minutes, door to door. We walked straight to Emergency, where a training session was on. Dr K got someone to come run the ECG machine. The grungy shirt off, and I remember feeling the cold glue being slapped on to my chest. In a few seconds, the tech and Dr K exchanged glances, and Dr K told me I would have to be admitted, and he went out to make arrangements. On the narrow bed in the ECG room, I'm started to zone out.

I pulled myself back. Called out to Bharat. Told him to get my phone. My brain is still working, sort of.

I try to think.. Dad has John to look after. We have had a a hard enough time the previous year through Mum's hospitalisation with Dad and I fit. With one of us out of action, it would be impossible. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. I hear Dr K on the phone. He is speaking to Dad, I can figure out. I strike that call off my mental list. Think, think, think. Who do I call? Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Who has a car? Who is independent — or senior enough in their work place to be able to drop things and just get here? Who has plastic? Vivek's in Goa. Hashim is in Kihim. Albert. Prakash. I pull up the number. Feeling too tired to talk. Or that I need to save energy. Tell Bharat to speak. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. After the calls, I give him my wallet and the phone and tell him to go to Dad for instructions.

I am strapped into a wheelchair. It gets hazy from here.

I think: I'm going to die. And, weird, I'm not scared. Just very, very, very tired. One truly understands the word 'fatalism' suddenly. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Will I meet mum, I wonder. The lift. The ICU. It's bigger, more spacious, than any I've been in as a visitor. I get into the bed. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Someone helps me take the shirt off. Cold glue slapped on. Electrodes stuck onto various parts of my chest, my wrists, my ankles. Something's clipped onto my finger. Something's strapped around my other arm. An injection. A handful of tablets. A canula is put into the back of my hand. An IV drip is connected. A voice tells me I've had a heart attack. 'But you'll be okay now. Don't be scared.' Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Haze. Voices. Someones looking at a a monitor next to me. It's connected, I surmise, to the scanner that's being moved around my chest. They — several of them I think — cluck. I think they said something about the heart attack still going on. Haze.

Evening, I think. Or is it night? Dunno. Prakash is at the head of the bed. Haze.

Albert is there. He tells me he's manning my phone. He has sent out a few SMSes to names he recognised from my address book, and to mutual friends. Thing is, though he and I have known each other since we were 12, I have very disparate groups of friends, large chunks of whom don't know each other. Some that do know each other but don't particularly like each other. Anyway, he wants to know who else I want called. What they are listed as on my phone. (I list various people, frequently-called close friends, by just the initial letters of their names.) I tell him. He scribbles as I try and get my mind to focus through the haze. M. A. V. N S R. D D. L. Ha. Mehru. Firoz. Manisha. Between them and the people he's already called, they should be able to pass the word around reasonably efficiently. Money , I say. I don't have very much, how am I gonna pay for this. Chill, he says, as the beep-beep of the machine next to me speeds up a bit, chill, your heart rate is going up, chill, it's being taken care of; some folks have swiped credit cards. Oh, he says, gimme your bank account number and ATM PIN. I do that. Oh, I say. Call Pervin. Tell her I can't make it to the meeting on Saturday. Call Sveta or Charles at the TOI, and tell 'em I can't do column. Fuck, he says, I think they'll understand, dude. Haze.

Susan. Julianna. Haze. Someone tells me that there is a relay of people outside keeping vigil so Dad can stay home; there's a note book with messages and a 'duty roster.' Calls have been coming in from all over. That I have a lot of pals who are very worried. Haze.

A nurse telling me I have a fever. A young doctor telling me that I had been in serious trouble but now I was going to be okay. Haze.

(I'll continue this later. Need to consult my notes.)


Anonymous said...

great to see you again...
Peter, you are seriously, seriously, lucky....
catch up with you soon :)

neha vish said...

You gave us a real scare there buddy.. it's great to see a post on the blog..

And you stay off all fried things, you hear!

Anonymous said...

It's so good to have you back, Peter. I'm glad you're feeling better. And yup, to echo Neha, stay off the fried junk and whatthehell do you mean ciggies?

Patrix said...

Nice to read you again, man! Hope you feel better and time to stay away from those smokes and heart-attack-inducing food (which unfortunately is all the good stuff).

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Take care Peter. Scary read.

Anonymous said...

Take care Peter.

Anonymous said...

Wish you a speedy recovery, Peter.


Anonymous said...

I don't read your blog regularly Peter, but have checked it several times in the last 2 years. Today I came here after a gap of about 5 months and what do I find! Heart attack!!
Take care of yourself and forget about those late nights.