Exactly five weeks ago, my dad had a heart attack.
The doctors in Dubai told us that Dad would need a valve replacement and a bypass. And soon – within the next few weeks. They kept pushing for a procedure called a TAVI (transcatheter aortic heart valve). Every time the doctors and nurses were checking up on him they would push for this procedure. They kept asking whether he’d set a date. They said they knew an excellent doctor. So when my mum said they wanted to meet the doctor and then decide what to do, she was told that they first had to decide to have the surgery and then they could meet the doctor. What nonsense.
So, Dad was home – I sent his reports to a cardiologist friend in London. He wrote back to me within minutes telling me to get a second opinion. He also said not to let anyone do a TAVI on him!
We eventually decided to go to Bombay (Mumbai, you know what I mean). My grandmother’s family are trustees of one of the hospitals and Dad would have access to the best doctors there. It also meant that we would have somewhere to stay (instead of having to rent a place which is what we’d have had to do if we’d gone to London). We’d sent Dad’s reports ahead and the cardiologist told us to come straight to the hospital once we were out of the airport and not go take him home first.
The three of us flew to Bombay together on Sunday, 30th August. My brother (S) was going to joining us there – but he had a much longer flight: Kingston to Miami to London to Bombay. He left Kingston on Monday morning and got to Bombay on Tuesday night!
So once we’d landed, we went straight to the hospital. I hadn’t been there in years. I was a bit apprehensive – even though Dad was on the 16th floor (the VIP floor) it looked really run down, the room was dark and I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there. My mum decided she was going to stay at the hospital with him so that she could meet the doctors when they did their rounds early the next morning. My grandmother joined us at the hospital and I went home with her when she left, leaving my parents at the hospital.
I went back the following day and had lunch with my parents. Dad was in and out of the room for various tests. I hung around the hospital until the evening when my grandmother came and went home with her. On our way out, we bumped into one of the cardiologists. He said he’d seen my dad earlier that day and had some good news – there was nothing wrong with his valves! What a relief!
I spent all of Tuesday at the hospital and had lunch there again. In the afternoon, the head of cardiology came to see my dad with his proposed course of action. He said that as he had just one artery that was blocked, the best thing to do would be to have an angioplasty and stent. He said that it would still be challenging, given the location of the artery, but it was far less invasive than a bypass and the whole thing would take 45 minutes under a local anaesthetic. I couldn’t believe it. In Dubai they were ready to cut him open and do God-knows-what to him! Unbelievable.
The next morning, S and I went to the hospital before Dad was taken in for his operation. We met the doctor again and he told us we could wait in his office while Dad was in the operating theatre. We sat down, ordered some tea and coffee and about 10 minutes later, a nurse came in. ‘Mrs B____, the doctor’s calling you.’ What was going on? S and I looked at each other as Mum went rushing out; and a minute later she came in to get us. ‘The doctor’s calling us.’ I thought something had gone horribly wrong. We were taken into a room next to the operating theatre and the doctor was there in his scrubs. What had happened??
‘I just want to show you on the screen what I’ve done.’ Jesus Christ! Couldn’t he have told us earlier that he was going to do that? He shows us the guidewire that was in my dad at that moment. He shows us that there was nothing wrong with his valves. He still thought the best treatment for him was an angioplasty and stent and he was going to carry on with that. Excellent.
We went back to the doctor’s office and waited. Ten minutes later, the door opened and my dad walked in. Well, obviously it wasn’t my dad – it was his brother, but S and I both thought it was my dad! About an hour later, the doctor called us back to that small room with the computer and screen. He showed us exactly what he’d done and we were also able to wave to Dad in the next room. He was sent to the recovery room for a while – and Mum, S and I went to Royal China for lunch.
That evening, my grandmother, mum and I went to visit Dad in the ICU. S had passed out so we left him at home. He seemed to be in good spirits – I think he was just glad it was over. As he was spending the night in the ICU, my mum decided to spend the night at home.
Dad was moved back to his room on Thursday and he was discharged on Friday.
Now comes the hard part of controlling his diet and getting him to do some light exercise each day – he knows what he can and cannot eat, but even getting him to walk for 20 minutes a day is proving a challenge.
At least this part is over. For now.