I think of heart op buddy Reg and count my blessings

FOR many of us, I suspect, the only subject as boring as others holiday snaps is hearing about their operation. So perhaps you should turn to another page. These meanderings have previously touched on what a triumph my bypass op proved, to the extent tha

FOR many of us, I suspect, the only subject as boring as others' holiday snaps is hearing about their operation. So perhaps you should turn to another page.

These meanderings have previously touched on what a triumph my bypass op proved, to the extent that this year is its 17th anniversary. Such a lease of life surely allows some boredom?

All round, luck was with me back in1992.

No "sorry, no bed" false start at Bart's. That must be really deflating to hear after the psyching up such ordeals take. But it's the nearest and dearest who really suffer.


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They're the ones biting nails, while you are spark out and the surgeons get on with it.

Madam accompanied me to Bart's and when she went I watched her walk to St Paul's Tube. We stood waving to each other at long range for ages, neither wanting to be the first to stop.

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St Paul's came to have some significance for Madam.

That trip home, for instance, was rendered less harrowing for her by a group of 20-something Irish lads, who'd been celebrating St Patrick's Day.

Old Pat himself couldn't have provided a better tonic than they did, on learning her worries.

Less fun was when, after a later visit, she was back again in no time, breathless, red-faced, wide-eyed.

Deep in St Paul's labyrinth, she'd had to flee following a bomb warning.

My re-structured heart ticked faster when she said how she'd stopped to gee-up some foreigners who, not understanding what was afoot, were stood about the platform, motionless.

Good fortune again, however, on my first post-op awakening to find it coinciding with Madam's phone call, and I was able to signal a thumbs-up to the nurse speaking to her. I think even the nurse was surprised.

It made Madam happier about having to wait till next day to visit me.

I was later to learn that the previous afternoon they'd let her watch from outside as they did the lengthy post-op work on me.

What she remembers most of that vigil is how intently a doctor focused on a row of state-of-play screens.

"His eyes were moving along them non-stop, he never once looked away all that time," she still marvels.

The painkillers I was on for a day or so made me feel like a million dollars. If nothing else, it gave me an insight into the addictive nature of taking drugs.

Reduced doses soon had me aware of my real condition, but I still felt pretty good.

Just how fortunate I was only registered after fellow patient Reg vanished one night.

I'd forgotten waking up, drug-dazed, and finding a policeman plus dog in a ward full of lights and fuss.

Police asking questions next day brought that unlikely scene back.

My nurse, Sally, whispered to me that Reg's op hadn't worked, and he was upset at facing a repeat.

How he'd gone, slippers and dressing-gown, in the small hours the night before without being missed was a mystery.

The worst fears were realised a day later when he was found in the Thames.

Feeling so good myself, the tragedy was hard to accept.

Sally said soberly, "each case is different".

Reg and I had gone round medical checks together a month earlier.

He had seemed a steady guy then, so must have suffered to go to that desperate length.

By coincidence, I was back at the ward subsequently when Reg's mum was there, getting his things.

It was hard trying to say meaningful words to an 80-year-old lady who was pleased at my progress, despite her loss.

In the 17 years since, I've only to think of Reg and his mum to fervently count my blessings.

The one whinge I do have, though, is about my legs. First evening in Bart's I got a razor and orders to shave my legs, as they'd be taking veins from both in the next morning's op. I was once runner-up in a beach hairy-legs turnout.

Yet not a single hair has grown back again since that Delilah job.

Small price, such lost vanity, eh?

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