Living With Angina Pain. Stents and Angioplasty and Life After Stents
Agina - The Stent Strikes Back
There is a strong chance that, as you are reading this article on angina and stents, you either have a problem or you know someone who has a problem. Maybe you have had an angiogram, or perhaps you are due to have an angiogram. It may be that you have been told, or that you suspect, that you have a blocked artery.
I genuinely know how you feel. So, read my story, which began 10 years ago, in 2005.
49 years old. Heavy smoker. heavy drinker. A life full of stress
Any of this ring any bells with you?
This is one of those "Once upon a time" stories that ends with "lived happily ever after"
July 2005. My wife and I took our caravan down to Cornwall as we regularly did. We were camped at a lovely little caravan park and we had enjoyed a lovely break.
When it came time to pack up we followed our usual routine of packing and tidying away and loading stuff into the caravan, which included taking down and packing away the awning.
That's when it first started. The first twinge. Not a full-blown chest pain. Just a twinge.
It felt like I had maybe pulled a muscle so I just carried on but with a little extra care.
Over the next few weeks I started to notice these 'twinges' more and more until they were becoming frequent. When I mowed the lawn, put the bins out walked more than a short distance . . . . . . . .
I finally started to worry, so I went to see my doctor. He said it was probably a digestive problem so he started to treat me for acid reflux. Then, when the tablets diidn't work, he gave me different tablets and then stronger ones.
Still the twinges were there, only now they had developed into real pains and they were coming more and more regularly. Several times each day. I kept going back to the doctor because now I was becoming more and more sure what the pains really were and in my mind, it wasn't due to acid reflux.
They sent me for ECG and other tests, including treadmill tests. Nothing. No irregularities. And so the doctor was adamant that it was acid reflux.
An appointment was made for me to see a digestive consultant and in the meantime I was off work and struggling to function more and more with each week that passed. Then, in the November, nearly 5 months after my first 'twinges' I finally saw the digestive specialist.
The initial idea was for me to have an endoscopy.
The consultant spent about 15 minutes talking to me, asking me questions and then he finally said "I'm not a heart specialist but I don't think I need to be. It seems clear to me that your problem is not digestive but heart related and if its ok with you, I am going to refer you to a colleague of mine who IS a heart specialist"
"If there are 2 possible problems and one of them can kill you then I think we should look at the one that could kill you first before I start shoving cameras down your throat!"
And so, I saw the heart specialist who after a few questions asked me if I would mind having an angiogram. I said I had no objections.
He explained that it involved injecting a dye into the heart and then monitoring the passage of the dye through the blood vessels and arteries to see if there was a blockage or any damage.
I didn't really fully understand it all really but I agreed and so, about 3 weeks later I arrived at hospital to find that they were going to make an incision in the artery in my thigh and thread a sort of wire or tube up my artery until it was close to my heart and then, inject the dye.
They gave me some 'happy juice' which was like this beautiful warm sensation that swept through my entire body and within seconds, I didn't have an absolute care in the world. The whole procedure was exceptionally simple and, thanks to the happy juice and, of course the local anaethstetic, I didn't feel a thing. Yes, local anaethstetic! It turned out to be a fascinating experience.
I was watching the overhead monitor which they had turned so I could see it and there, on the screen, they showed me the blockage in my artery.
4 weeks after that I was admitted for the angioplasty procedure which was exactly the same as the angiogram except this time, the wire had a 'balloon' on the end and once it reached the blockage, they inflated it and it busted the blockage away and then, they deflated the balloon and inserted a chemical coated stent into the area where the blockage had been.
The stent is like a tiny wire cage which is coated in chemicals and it holds the artery open. The chemicals prevent any fatty tissue or other junk sticking to the stent and growing over it, thus keeping the artery open and clear,
I was in hospital overnight and was discharged the following lunchtime. I left hospital with statins, beta blockers and asprins. I will take these medicines for the rest of my life.
However, from that day to this I have never experienced pains again.
Since that time I have played 5-a-side football and cricket, I can swim 20 lengths, body board, go cliff walking and mountain walking and do all the things that I did before.
I have my life back.
My blood pressure is generally between 120 and 130 over 80(ish) and my cholesterol is 3.5. My doctor says I am in perfect health.
The point is . . . . before I had the angiogram I was petrified. Really, really scared.
I was afraid that something would go wrong and I would die.
I went to see the doctor and begged him to give me medication of some kind that would 'do the trick'. Anything, but NOT the angiogram or the angioplasty procedure. I wanted to live, not die.
He matter of factly told me that he could do that but my condition would remain as it is and although the trinitrate spray I was using would continue to help, I would never get better and, in time, the condition would finally worsen and I would have no choice but to have the procedure or die.
I cannot describe the fear when I went to the hospital.
And afterwards I cannot describe the relief once it was all over and it had all been easy. In fact, it was far more preferable to and pleasant than the dentist!
I went on a hospital exercise programme for 6 weeks and I was able to push myself to the limit and my heart rate never excceded 108 and my blood pressure was always normal and that gave me the confidence to live my life normally.
So, if anyone reads this and is in a similar situation. Fear not. It is really worth it.
If you do read this and you are in my situation and you are afraid or anxious or you have questions, leave me a message and I will help you. Talk you through it. Give you any information that you want.
Just go for it though. It is a life altering procedure and considerably preferable to death!
It is now 10 years since I had the stent fitted and, in a physical sense, my health has never been better.
I swim regularly and work out in the gym. My best swimming effort in one session is 70 lengths. I play cricket and football and I have surfing lessons booked for when I go to Cornwall next week. Quite often I play tennis with either or both of my twentysomething sons. We usually play 1 set and sometimes 2. I usually lose but, who cares? I give them a good game, which is more than most 59 year olds can say, stented or not!
And the greatest benefit of all is that I am alive and well and able to enjoy my new, baby granddaughter, Holly. Without the stenting procedure I never would have experienced the joy of knowing her and watching all the new things she does every week.
Having angina is a terrible, scary thing but having a stent fitted can be, quite literally, a life saver and not just from the cardiac perspective.
Not only has my stent made me physically well again, it has given me back my life, in the 'living' sense too.
I would love to hear and share your stories of overcoming cardiac problems by having stents fitted, so if you would like to contribute to this hub, please leave your comments and if you have found the article to be useful or helpful, please vote it up!
Update: March 16th, 2013
Since starting this hub a few years ago, I have received so many comments from people. Some people have written because they are worried or because they have had the procedure and are unsure about the after effects, medication problems or resuming their quality of life, so I thought I would do a quick update on my own situation.
I had yet another check up yesterday - I have one every 6 months and blood tests with BP check every 12 months and my doctor said my health is perfect in every respect.
My average BP over a 2 week period was 128/85 with an average pulse rate of 73. My cholesterol is 3.7, which is exceptional and my liver and kidney functions are all, according to him, at absolutely perfect levels.
I take Adizem, Lisinopril and Atorvastatin daily, plus asprin and suffer no side effects that I am aware of, except perhaps slight muscle tiredness.
So, stenting works and the medication works too. Well, in my case at least!
I say all of this not to boast but to reassure anyone reading that, life after stenting can be great and the medication involved certainly does help.
For me, stenting and the medication afterwards has been a way of giving me a new lease of life and I hope anyone reading this who is, maybe, in a situation where they have to consider stenting, will be reassured that stenting CAN offer a long term solution to a dreadful situation.
Further Update November 2014
Medical Insurance. I took out medical insurance a few years ago but, unfortunately, after my stenting so I had an exclusion clause in my policy, which was with Pru Health. However, I recently changed to BUPA and was pleasantly surprised that they said I needed no such clause, as it was more than 2 years (it is now 10 years) since I was stented.
I had a couple of lengthy chats with them about the fact that, although I had never suffered again since I was stented, I took medication for blood pressure, statins and another for heart rate and I was still monitored each year by my doctor, with blood tests and BP tests.
They said "Have you had any further episodes of angina?" No
"Is your doctor or a hospital currently treating you for angina" No, but what about my medication?
They said "Your medication is for blood pressure and cholesterol, certainly, but not SPECIFICALLY for angina. Lots of people take medication for blood pressure and cholesterol. If you have not had or been treated for angina in the past 2 years we don't want to know. There will be no clause in your policy and if you ever suffered a problem in the future, we would cover you"
So . . . . . . looks like, for insurance purposes, I am no longer classed as suffering from angina! I have to say, I like BUPA very much!
Thanks also to all the people who are STILL reading this hub and sending messages and emails. It really makes my day when someone gets in touch.
Bless you all.
December 30th 2014
And finally, as another year draws to a close, I hope that there are many people whose story appears in this hub who have good cause to look forward to the new year with a feeling of hope and optimism that they didn't have previously.
To all of you who have, so far, contributed to this collection of wonderful, personal stories and accounts, may I just take the time to say 'Thank You' and to those who have not yet discovered our wonderful, exclusive and supportive hub, but who are going to, at some time in the future, may I say 'Welcome'
But to all, I really want to say 'Happy New Year' and, if you are interested, or know someone who would benefit from it, I have just completed a new hub about my journey through the possibility of having prostate cancer, following a raised PSA test, last October. Just follow the link to My Prostate Cancer Diary