Exactly a week ago, my dad had a heart attack.
On Wednesday evening, just before dinner, my dad complained that he’d been feeling uncomfortable all day, like he had a weight on his chest. My mum and I weren’t too concerned by this as he often says he’s ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘not feeling too good’. About 20 minutes after dinner, at around 9.15pm, he said he thought he needed to go to the hospital. I told him I’d call an ambulance but he said it wasn’t necessary. He’d change out of his pajamas and we’d get a cab. I went to change (I was also in my pajamas already) and when I came out of my room I heard him in his bedroom – he was gasping. I went in to see if he was OK and he told me to call an ambulance. He couldn’t breathe. I called ‘999’, gave them my mobile number and waited for them to call me back. They called within a minute to get our location and ask what the symptoms were. I asked Dad if he was having chest pains – he said he wasn’t but that he felt a lot of pressure all over his chest. The lady on the phone said the ambulance would be with us soon. The last time we had to call an ambulance it got to us two minutes after we’d made the call. This time, it took longer.
Dad had come out to the TV room and was on the sofa. He was gasping for air. He kept saying, ‘I’m going. I’m going.’ He kept asking, ‘Where’s the ambulance? Where’s the oxygen?’ I called the woman back ten minutes later to ask how long the ambulance would be – she put me through to the ambulance driver. He said they were coming in five minutes. ‘Look after Mum,’ Dad said. ‘I’m going.’ I told him to stop saying that and the only place he was going was to the hospital. I’m not going to lie, it was fucking scary. He had taken his shirt off as he was feeling so hot – my hands were freezing (they often are) and the only thing I could think of to do was to rub my hands on his chest and back. Because he kept insisting that he wasn’t having a heart attack, I didn’t consider the fact that it really could be one. Had I told my mum or had they overheard me tell the woman on the phone that it was a heart attack, I think they would have both panicked. Of course, in hindsight, I realise that it couldn’t have been anything else.
The paramedics finally arrived – it took them about twenty minutes. They were at home for about fifteen minutes (heart monitor, oxygen, questions) before putting Dad on the stretcher and going downstairs to the ambulance. Luckily, Mum and I were both able to go in the ambulance with him – Mum sat in the back with Dad and the two paramedics while I sat up in the front with the driver. I tried to call my uncle but there was no answer. Just as we left our building, one of the paramedics opened the divider between the main ambulance and the driver’s area and said ‘Red’. ‘Red? Are you sure?’ asked the driver. ‘Yes, red,’ he replied. The flashing lights came on, the siren came on and we were off. The whole way to the hospital I kept saying to myself, ‘Not today. Not today. Not today.‘ We got to Rashid Hospital and were seen immediately in one of the emergency areas. The doctors and nurses were brilliant and eventually had Dad’s symptoms all under control. My uncle had called my mum back and joined us at the hospital as well.
After seeing the on-call cardiologist, Dad was told he’d be admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU). He was feeling a lot better by this time and could speak properly. A male nurse asked him a few questions. When he asked Dad what his weight was, Dad replied, ’80 kilos’. Mum and I looked at each other, and in spite of everything that had happened that evening, burst out laughing. There was just no way he weighed 80 kilos – he’s more like 90 kilos. And Dad looked a bit sheepish.
Two custodians wheeled him to the CCU followed by the three of us. He was going to be in a ward – there were three other patients in his area and they were all asleep by the time we got there. I think it was soon after midnight by this time. The nurses transferred Dad from the stretcher, changed him into pajamas and made him comfortable for the night. The nurse told us that one of us could come back in the morning to meet the doctor but regular visiting hours were from 4pm to 9pm. My mum wanted to spend the night at the hospital, but there was nowhere for her to sleep. There was a waiting room inside the ward but the nurses said anyone could walk in at any time and they wouldn’t recommend sleeping there. So Mum came home with me. Before we left, Dad asked us to bring his phone and iPad the next day – he really was feeling better!
We got home at around 1am, I had to speak to my brother and sister and let them know what had happened. I had to call our insurance company and let them know what had happened. And after I’d done everything I had to do, I got into bed and cried. The events of the evening had finally sunk in and I felt completely overwhelmed.
The next morning, Mum left for the hospital at about 8.30am to wait for the doctor once he’d done his rounds. He said that Dad had had a mild heart attack at home and would be in hospital for four days and that they would do an angiography on Sunday. I asked him how he was feeling. ‘Hungry!’ she responded.
Mum came home for lunch and said that Dad was already complaining about the bland food at the hospital and that he’d already shouted at one of the nurses (I can’t remember why). OK, so back to his usual self then. I went to the hospital that afternoon – Dad was looking and feeling a lot better. There was a very chatty Welshman in the bed opposite his and my mum seemed to have found out his entire life story that morning (apart from his name – which we later found out was Ken). My uncle and aunt also came to visit for a little while. We stayed till about 7pm, after Dad had eaten his dinner, and then came home.
Dad spent a week in hospital. We visited every evening (Mum went in the mornings too). It was his 69th birthday on the Friday and he spent it in hospital. By then he’d been moved to a ward for less serious patients. It was also the ward where the angio room was so it was more convenient for him to be there. He had his angio on the Sunday and the doctor told him that one of his arteries was blocked and that the valve needed replacing. On the Monday he was moved to another ward, as he was only in hospital due to his elevated sugar and creatinine levels.
So Dad’s going to need a bypass in the next few weeks – and he has to decide where to have it. Of course there’s nothing like being in your own home while you’re convalescing but we keep hearing terrible reviews about doctors in Dubai so the next most convenient place to have the operation would be Bombay. But first he needs the all-clear to travel, which I think will still take at least a week.