That wasn’t part of the plan

I didn’t make it to Brisbane, Fraser Island or Whitsundays.  Our planned road trip didn’t happen.  I didn’t even make it out of Sydney airport.  Instead, I spent four days in hospital.

When we got to the airport I started to feel nauseous and because I’d drank quite a bit over new year I put it down to a hangover.  I couldn’t remember the last time I was sick from a hangover but these things happen, so I didn’t think much of it.

After checking in, I vomited again and thinking that was the last of it we went to our departure gate…to find out our plane had been delayed by 2 hours.   Then I had to vomit again and it all started.

I had sweat pouring off me and I was dizzy, nauseous and had some pains in my chest and after being in the toilet for about 20 minutes eventually made myself get up, find my friend and find some first aid as I knew something was up.  

My friend thought I was having a panic attack due to the plane being delayed and we’d been rushing about earlier to get to the airport.  I wasn’t convinced, but whilst I was sat with the first aid person I was getting worse, I was short of breath, the pains weren’t going away, I was still nauseous and even with an oxygen mask on I was struggling to breathe – so they called an ambulance. 

The ambulance came and they hooked me up to an ECG and took me to hospital.  Once I got there, the first couple of doctors said to me that I was showing signs of a heart attack, but “it can’t be a heart attack, you’re too young, fit, healthy etc”. They thought it was an inflammation/virus of the sack around the heart – like a flu virus – so they done more tests; ECGs, echos, ultrasounds, ultrascans…everything. 

Eventually another cardiologist came in and stood there with about 8 people around him waiting to whisk me away.  They were going to do a angioplasty procedure to rule out a heart attack.  They took me upstairs to the cardiologist unit and slapped some resuscitation pads on me “in case you do anything silly during the procedure”. 

They gave me a local anaesthetic and they cut into my groin and sent a tube up to have a look at the arteries.  Whilst they were doing that they found I had a blood clot in one of the main arteries of my heart – which they cleared and put a stent in the artery to keep it open.  I was awake whilst they were doing this and felt them doing it inside of me – even heard my heart monitor stop for a second too.

The blood clot had caused me to have a heart attack.  

The doctors still don’t know why it happened.  They’re still waiting on results of blood tests to see if I’m prone to blood clots.  My blood pressure and cholesterol levels were a bit higher than normal but not remarkable so.  The doctor said that nothing I’ve done in the past or have done caused this to happen.  It was all in my genes and it was like this from when I was born, it’s just been waiting to happen and I was lucky it happened when it did (with people around/close to hospital etc).  If that plane hadn’t have been delayed and I’d been on the plane, he said I wouldn’t have made it to Brisbane.  

I’m back home now and I will make a full recovery.  I’ve already been out and about for a few (very) slow walks.  I’m like a pensioner at the minute and I’m wondering if I can nab one of them mobility scooters from somewhere (I’d love a go on one of them).  But aside from all the tablets I need to take I’ve got to go and see a cardiologist in a month and to attend a cardiac rehabilitation program for 6 weeks (starting next week).  Have just been told to take it easy for the next 4-6 weeks – and as long as I don’t exert myself I’ll be fine.   I’ve got to reduce the risk of it happening again, so I’m off the booze for the foreseeable future (if not indefinitely).  The doctor said I couldn’t have sex for two weeks, to which I replied “that’s ok, 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, it’s all the same”.  He didn’t find it as funny as me.

I’m just relieved it happened when my friend was here, she’s been amazing and I don’t know what I would’ve done if she hadn’t have been around.  We’ve got the same sense of humour, so we’ve found the humour in everything – from me off my face on morphine in the ER, to walking around like a pensioner.  When something like this happens it makes you realise how far away from family and friends you are.

Because it’s so rare for this to happen to someone of my age, the doctors have took my charts to use to teach other doctors and they’ve also put me on a research program as well.

I still haven’t got my head around it yet, but it’s all been very surreal week.  I’m 33 years old, no history of health/heart problems, relatively fit and healthy and I’ve had a heart attack.  It just goes to show, it could happen to anyone, at any time.

It’s time to put my feet up and get through a shitload of movies and TV.  What a start to 2013. 

New Year

G’day

I’ve never liked new year, but when you spend new year on a boat, on Sydney Harbour…awesome.
 
It’s now 2:30am on New Years day (technically 2nd Jan), and I’m still made up and need to tell more people about it.  The boat we were on had free ale and free food, so the six of us obviously  took advantage on the ale. 
 
The boat was 7.30pm-1am.  We saw the 9pm Family Fireworks by Cockatoo Island – which is on the other end of the harbour (not the typical Opera House view end), but even though we couldn’t see the bridge or Opera House from where we were for them fireworks, they have barges all along the harbour setting off fireworks so it was still a good view.  
 
The boat we were on was in the ‘Light Parade’ so it sailed around the harbour for a few hours before the proper fireworks.  Even though I’ve been here for 2 years, it was very surreal and I had to pinch myself a few times to realise that I was there on boat watching the fireworks – I can’t, and will never be able to, describe that feeling.
 
For the midnight fireworks we had a view of the Opera House and the bridge, it was a bit further away than I thought it’d be, but with a full view of the Opera House, bridge and 3/4 barges setting off fireworks…we couldn’t have had a better spec if we tried. I didn’t take any photos of the fireworks cos I was too busy looking at them, but when/if you seen them on telly – the front view of the bridge and opera house, the typical view of it all – thats the view I had.  Ten times a better than the view I’ve had in the last couple of years.
 
Five years ago I never thought I’d get to see Sydney New Year fireworks, let alone be living here and and see them three years on the run. But this year was better than the other two new year eve’s, and as long as I’m here every new year from now I’ll be on a boat for them.  You cannot beat it. 
 
Happy New Year all.
 
I’m off on my holidays tomorrow too. For 10 days, me and my mate who I used to work with has come over from the UK, so tomorrow we’re off to: Brisbane, then onto Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, Whitsundays (sailing on a catamaran for 2 days) and Surfers Paradise. 
 
As you do.
 
 (Still) living the dream. 

Some travels

Although I haven’t done much of note over the past few months, I have been on two trips recently (over a month ago).

First off, I went over to Tasmania for a few days, starting in Launceston for a day and then driving down to Hobart for a few days. Not sure if I missed something while I was in Tasmania, but there’s not much there. It was pretty uneventful and apart from seeing loads of road-kill on the road and being asked to leave a pub for apparently being drunk…after 6 drinks (I wasn’t), there’s not a lot to say about the place.  Maybe I went at the wrong time of year.

Next up was New Zealand.

I went over to Auckland to visit some mates from back home, so it was good to see some familiar faces. But whilst they were in work during the week I decided to do a little solo driving tour around some of the north island.

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Bilbo Baggins wasn’t home

My first stop was a place called Matamata. Matamata is the place where they filmed Hobbiton for Lord of the Rings, it’s on farmland in the middle of nowhere. Hobbiton looked just like it did in the films (and they’ve just rebuilt it all as they’ve recorded the Hobbit film there again) so it was looking especially ‘new’. Didn’t see any hobbits. Disappointed.

 

 

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Geothermal thing

My next stop was Rotorua to see all the volcanic geothermal stuff there. By the end of the day I was all geothermalled out, but the best I place I went to was Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland (who knew there was a wonderland of thermal?). I thought I’d be a bit more impressed than I was, but it was pretty good seeing different landscapes and shite things.

 

Taupo was next and a 20km hike to do the Tongariro Crossing. The hike goes across two volcanoes: Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings) and Mount Tongariro (which erupted in August), and I’d been looking forward to this for months and it didn’t disappoint. Some of the views were amazing and it was like being on a different planet at times. Even though it was a 20km hike (and I’m not the fittest person ever), it was still harder than I thought it would be. Part of the crossing is an active volcano which had a big eruption in August and actually erupted again a week after I got back. So I missed all the action. Although I would’ve pooed my pants, I did want to see it erupt whilst I was close to it.

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Tongariro Crossing – Emerald Lakes

After a day of wondering why I thought hiking 20km up a volcano was a good idea, I headed back towards Auckland, stopping at Waitomo Glow Worm Caves.

It was a 2.5 hour drive from Taupo, but it was the best drive I’ve ever done. It was that good I thought I was in a car advert – I hardly seen any cars and virtually every bend I went around was a bit of brilliant scenery. It sounds stupid, but apart from having rolling hills everywhere, the grass is greener over there than I’ve seen anywhere else (and I wasn’t even on drugs).

Rather than just do a normal run of the mill tour in Waitomo Caves, for some reason I thought it’d be a good idea to have a bit of an adventure and opted for a 5 hour “Black Abyss” caving tour.

Clad in a wetsuit and helmet (complete with little light); it started with a 35 meter abseil into the cave, zip lines in the pitch black, climbing waterfalls, jumping off 10 feet ledges into water, floating along on black rubber tubes in the dark staring at the glow warms (which looked like staring at stars in the sky). At one point I somehow managed to not be able to move myself in the tube, my arms and legs flapping and not moving…if you picture a stranded tortoise on its shell? That was me. The tour guide told me to just stand up as the water wasn’t deep but either she hated me or I was in the only part of the cave that was deep water so I flopped out of the ring and sank. It was a great tour, and I’d recommend it to anyone but after 4 hours underground I was glad to get back above ground.

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Mt Doom

A week(ish) ago, it was my 2 year anniversary of landing in Australia.  Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

New housemates

The door of my apartment has been revolving again and we’ve had another change of flat mates.  Out goes one girl, in comes one boy.

It wasn’t so long ago that I’d just found two girls to live with.  I was slightly apprehensive about living with two girls – it’s not like the movies (not the movies I watch anyway) – but it worked out well.  Unfortunately one of them decided to move in with her boyfriend so left the other two of us looking for someone to replace her.

The process of flatmate finding isn’t the greatest.  It’s a pain in the arse.  Especially when you know within a minute if they’d be a good fit or not and have to go through a little rigmarole with them.

This time we just seemed to have weirdo’s coming for viewings.  Not least someone, who said “I prefer brunch over lunch…”.

I don’t think I even knew what brunch was until I was in my twenties (actually, I’m still not really sure what it is)…cloven-hoofed beasts might as well have dragged me up.

But who says “I prefer brunch over lunch” without laughing?  Not me.

“I’m from Liverpool mate, you’re not moving in here if you come out with stuff like that.”

Obviously I ooze culture.

Thankfully, one of the last to view the apartment turned out to be ok and moved in a few weeks later – a male this time.  So far he’s settled in and seems like a good sort – and someone who likes to go out for a drink now and again (rather than “brunch”), which is a bonus.

Putting myself out there….a bit

Since I got my visa to stay over here in Sydney, I’ve settled into my life a bit better.  I managed to find a decent place to live (with good housemates) and got a bit more settled in work, everything just kind of slotted into place when I needed it to.

However the one thing that hasn’t really gone too well for me is making new friends.  Most of my friends back in England I’d known since I was yay big, and there was no need to put myself into places to try to make new mates.

I have work mates and my flatmates here, but outside of that I don’t really know anyone to go out with or do things with.  My current flatmates do their own thing, which is good in one way and not so good if you’re me and you don’t know many people to socialise with.

Even though I knew I lot of people from when I first got here from staying in hostels (easiest place ever to make friends), all of them are now back where they came from.  I guess I was also a bit unlucky that my two good mates here also accepted jobs in other cities at more or less the same time a few months ago.  I’ve also found it difficult to break into already established groups of friends.

So I’ve had to put myself out there again and meeting new people doesn’t come easy to me (probably not the best trait when I decided to move to the other side of the world on my own)!  Although I’d say I was shy, I’m definitely nowhere near as shy as I was before I came here…I can’t afford to be.

I’d been posting on some Internet forums for a few months and decided to go to a meet-up they were having.  I haven’t really embraced the whole ‘meet strangers off the Internet’ thing, but I decided to go along.  About 12/14 people turned up…there were a couple of token weirdo’s…but all in all it was a good night and although it was totally out of my comfort zone, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it (potentially) could be.  There were probably a couple of people I’ll keep in touch with at least.

But I’ve got to keep putting myself out there, and put myself into situations to meet new people and I’m pretty sure there are more weirdo’s to meet out there…

My bones are still broken

Three months after my (life saving) bone graft, I went for a follow up to see if the bones had healed ok.  One side of the scaphoid bone has joined and healed ok…the other side hasn’t.  So far.

The surgeon thinks it may just need more time (he has known it to take 18 months to join together).  But for now, I literally can’t do anything else apart from wait for another 2 months and then go back for a follow up and another CT scan to check it.

On the picture below, you can just about work out where the bone has joined…and you can see a big gap where the screw is, where the bone tissue doesn’t even look close to joining on the other side. (Looks like it needs some concreate pouring in there never mind bone tissue joining).

The physio who I’ve been seeing, almost weekly, and was (slowly) getting my wrist to move  again, now can’t do much more with me either because pushing my hand further or doing more physio could damage the bone repair.  So I’m stuck for a few months with a gimp hand.

I never thought it’d be this much hassle (and obviously I didn’t realise I’d done that much damage to it initially).  To say I’m totally over not being able to use my right hand fully is an understatement…especially as I’m right handed.  So no lifting anything slightly heavy…I can’t even pick up a kettle, or carry a cup of tea…no putting pressure on it, shaking hands, blah blah blah.

To give you an idea how much I can move my hand refer you to diagram 2.  Diagram 1 is how far I can bend my left hand back without thinking about it.  Diagram 2 is how far back my gimp hand goes (it doesn’t go much further bending it the other way either).

The surgeon told me my hand will never get back to ‘normal’ again (normal = how it was before op), and that it’ll be 12 months before it’s “as normal as it’ll get”, whatever that means.  He also told me I’ll never be able to do push ups again.

Oddly, he didn’t tell me any of that before the operation.

So, sadly, even though my fingers still work and I can continue my classical piano career, I’ve had to regrettable withdraw from the World Push-Up Championships.  It was a devasting blow, especially when I think back to my record breaking 3 push-ups I last done about 10 years ago.

If I could grow a decent goatee I’d be contemplating life as a Jeremy Beadle impersonator.  Some things, obviously, aren’t meant to be.

Just Say No

I was people watching whilst waiting for my Mango Magic smoothie when a couple interrupted me. I wasn’t really in a chatting mood and just hoped they were after directions.

Instead of asking for directions she asked me if I would be interested in attending a stage show. 

It’s not what I’d expect to be asked whilst waiting at a smoothie stall, but not wanted to be pestered, I replied short and to the point. “No, it’s not my type of thing”.

Instead of taking this as their cue to piss off and leave me alone she started blabbering on about this show and instead of cutting her off I let her talk, I smiled and pretended to be interested.  Then, hearing my accent, she started asking questions about me, how long had I been here for etc. 

Thinking if I told her I didn’t live here would get them to leave me alone – I told her I was travelling and was only here for a couple of weeks. 

“Oh, that’s good, the show is next Saturday. You could bring a friend along?”

They obviously didn’t hear me saying I wasn’t into stage shows.  But now instead of just flatly saying “No”, I made excuses…

One thing I’ve found with myself is that I very rarely say no.  I’m too eager to help people out or just go along with things for an easy life.  Something in my brain doesn’t let me say “no” and I’m never the best at thinking on my feet.  The best I came up with was:

“Well, I’d have to ask my girlfriend, but she’s not well at the minute, so I’m not sure she’d want to go”. 

As if it wasn’t enough to have an imaginary girlfriend, I was suddenly the only person in the world with a sick, imaginary, girlfriend. 

I thought I heard my name being called, which meant my smoothie was ready: I could escape.  But in all the confusion it wasn’t my name – I’d picked up and drank someone else’s smoothie.  I had to apologise (to a male with a real girlfriend) whilst they made another. 

This couple continued on at me, wanting me to buy tickets to their show, whilst all I could think of was who my sick girl was, what she looked like and what was her name?

They asked if they could take my phone number to follow up with me during the week to buy some tickets. Talk about the hard sell… anyone else would’ve said no at this point.  Not me, I agreed, whilst in my head I said ‘give them a fake number’, ‘give them a fake number’, ‘give them a fake number’.  Although I could make up an ill partner on the spot, I obviously can’t make up fake phone numbers…and gave them my phone number.  

I walked away slurping on my Mango Magic wondering what the hell had just happened.

True to their word, one of them called me back last night to ask if I was interested in buying a ticket.  Instead of just saying no, I told him my girlfriend had been rushed to hospital so we wouldn’t be able to make it.

I don’t think he’ll call back.