Sunday, 27 July 2008


It’s bizarre. As I said in my last post, I recently gave up smoking (13 weeks on Thursday). I'd smoked for nearly 30 years, although I had given up for periods ranging from 2-4 weeks, this is definitely the longest length of time.

So why give up now? I'd been wanting to for some time, but kept putting it off (as most addicts do), and then, thirteen weeks ago, I got sick, to the extent that I was faced with the decision of 'smoke or breathe'. I chose the latter.

Now for those that don't know, the most addictive 'element' of smoking is nicotine. And all the research that I've done says that it takes the body between four days and two weeks to purge itself of the nicotine. Five days after I stopped I was admitted to hospital, where I remained until eleven days after I stopped, so I was actually in hospital during the period that I should have been experiencing the worst withdrawals, so I missed them.

However, that didn't stop me from having the occasional craving. What was odd was that, although I'd smoked 20+ cigarettes a day for many years, the cravings that I actually got were for cigars, which I would sometimes smoke on high days and holidays. But, these cravings were never that intense and I never acted on them.

So why, having had occasional cravings for the first eleven weeks have the cravings for nicotine been so great in the last two weeks. Not just that, but these have been cravings for any format of nicotine, pipe, cigar or cigarette. Without wishing to appear smug, I can also report that I haven't acted on these cravings whilst awake (I have dreamt most nights in the last two weeks that I've been smoking and woken up feeling guilty).

One thing that did make me laugh in my research is that 8 hours after giving up smoking, a person’s chances of having a heart attack are reduced. Just as well I gave up then.

Now, as you may or may not be aware that the Government in this country introduced a smoking ban in all public building on July 1st 2007 and it’s also reported in many papers that hospitals have reported a fall in the number of heart attack cases since the ban. However, there are no figures to confirm or deny that the people that would have had MIs have died of pneumonia because they now have to stand outside in all weathers to have a cigarette.

It has also given Nanny, as the current Government is affectionately known, the opportunity to introduce more people to keep an eye on the general public and report back.

For example, in Tunbridge Wells we have the litter wardens, who issue fixed penalties to people who dispose of litter anywhere other than bins, including cigarette ends, and hence their nickname of 'Butt Nazis'. They are employed by the council, and generally seem to be the type of people who are too stupid to ask 'Do ya want fries with that?' or to whom English is either a third, or even fourth, language.

Whilst I agree that something needs to be done to improve the environment, I don't think that this is the solution. I would imagine that these people are on minimum wage, but can get a performance related bonus, ie. the more tickets issued the more they will be paid. This leaves the system open to abuse. However, at least we were not the town where the self-employed decorator was issued a fixed penalty this week whilst having a cigarette in his own van because the warden decided that he had broken the law by smoking in his place of work.

Personally, I would have used the money to buy more dustbins and ash bins. One off cost, minimal upkeep, cheaper than a warden. However, there would still be people who would litter, even with more receptacles. Simple. Traffic wardens are already 'double-hatting' alongside the litter wardens, so pay them a little more and get rid of the waste of wages that are the litter wardens. Or better still, there has been talk recently of those on benefits having to do community work to carry on receiving those benefits. Why not have them 'litter sweep' their local area.

However, I don't think that this will ever happen. Why not? It’s all to do with money. If you do just buy more bins there is not the on-going revenue coming in that there is by having the litter wardens.

And why is this so important? The reports claim that since the smoking ban was introduced, more than 400,000 people have given up. If one imagines that each of those people smoked 20 cigarettes a day, then there are 400,000 less packets of cigarettes being sold daily, which is 146 million less packets being sold each year. Bearing in mind that the tax on a packet of cigarettes is about £3.27, that means that the Government are receiving about £477.5m less each year in tax and they have to make up this shortfall somehow.

In the meantime, I shall ignore the cravings and promise not to turn into one of those 'holier than thou' ex-smokers. Why? Cos I could just go for a ciggie at the mo.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Who'd Have Thought It

So there I was, 2.30 last Thursday afternoon, sat in my office drinking coffee and booking tickets for the cinema to see Prince Caspian with my kids.

No sooner had I booked the tickets than it happened. Chest pain. Not like in the adverts that you see on billboards with the guy who looks like there's a belt tightening around his chest, but chest pain nonetheless. Bugger!

So, being the consummate Health Care Professional that I am, I snuck over to A&E and into resus and attached myself to a monitor. Now, you can't tell from just three leads whether the rhythm is truly unpleasant, but it gives you some idea. The rhythm and the fact that I felt like crap suggested that I was compromised. Next stop Coronary Care Unit (CCU), 'cos if you're going to arrest, that's the place to do it.

By the time I'd got there, the pain had gone, so I sat down and joked about having chest pain hence my being there. Clearly, it had been a false alarm.

WRONG! Unfortunately, ten minutes later, the pain returned. This was a bit more like the guy with the belt so I asked the staff if they'd mind doing an ECG on me. Now, because of my somewhat warped sense of humour, they thought I was joking, but I eventually convinced them that I wasn't. Just as well, really, as when the ECG was done, it showed that there were 'ischaemic changes indicative of a myocardial infarction (MI)' (For the non-medical 'not enough blood getting to the heart muscle making the squiggly lines a bit more squiggly, which you might see if someone was having a heart attack').

The next couple of hours were a bit of a blur, with needles being stuck in me, blood being taken, drugs being given, echocardiograms being performed etc. It was made more of a blur with the addition of diamorphine. How anybody can take this recreationally, I do not know. It made me feel really odd, and I couldn't keep my eyes open.

At 5.10pm, I was loaded into the back of an ambulance, with the A&E staff waving and laughing at me, and I began the 50 minute journey to London (only that short a time due to the lights and sirens) and four hours after my first bit of chest pain, I was in the cardiac catheter lab of a London hospital having a stent placed in my Left Anterior Descending artery (one of the coronary arteries).

After this I was transferred to the CCU at this hospital and told that I would have to stay in bed for 24 hours!

Unfortunately, on Friday, I was told that not only did my blood tests show that I'd had an MI but that it had also been noticed that I had a narrowing in one of my other coronary arteries (the Left Main Stem), although they were sure that it would be fine on investigation, and that I would have to stay in hospital until at least Monday! Another 'bugger!' as hospitals at weekends are very boring.

Fortunately, my beloved visited me on Friday and brought some DVDs and a portable player, as well as a book. Better than staring at the four walls.

She also visited on Sunday as did my friend H, who was much better than when I telephoned her on Thursday evening to tell her where I was (she lives just down the road from the hospital). Now maybe it was that she had been to a Garden Party and had a bit of champagne, but when I texted her, she called me back and gave me a full scale bollocking! At least she'd calmed by Sunday!

At last, Monday arrived. The day that I was going home! All I had to do was wait for another angiogram to check out the 'dodgy' artery and I could go. At least that was the theory. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be the case. Instead, it was found that the blockage in the Left Main Stem was more severe than expected and that the only solution was a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG). Bugger No.3! Also, because I'd had more ischemia during the procedure I was told that I couldn't go home.

Having worked in Cardiac for many years, I know everything that goes on during a CABG, and have to say that it is something that I'm really not looking forward to. But I will allegedly feel better once it’s done, and having met the surgeon this morning, I feel a bit more reassured. I also know that I will be having it done in early September.

Moving on to my 'friends'! I use the '' as the reaction from most of them when I have called them and told them is initial disbelief, convinced that I am winding them up, followed in most cases by amusement. At least they have a sense of humour, unlike one of the hospital staff.

I gave up smoking nearly 11 weeks ago after nearly 30 years of addiction to the weed. Since then, I've had a large pulmonary embolism and now an MI. So, I told one of the doctors that clearly smoking was better for me than non-smoking and that on discharge I would have to catch up and therefore smoke 60 a day instead of my previous 20. Cue tumbleweed and lead balloons!

So, here I am, back at home, still alive, and better go to bed as it’s getting late and I have had a heart attack you know Description: Free Smiley Face Courtesy of

Monday, 7 July 2008


I saw a lot of veterans this weekend. I was playing soldiers and spent Saturday at an event at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham. Melt down all the medals that were on display and you could build an aircraft carrier.

It was also interesting talking to many of the veterans and hearing about their experiences, not of the conflicts in which they'd been involved, but of their experiences since leaving the service.
Although there were a lot of men and women there wearing their Second World War campaign medals, the majority were those that were wearing the decorations from the numerous small wars and conflicts that the British Armed Forces have been involved in since 1945.

But all agreed on one thing. Whilst the WWII veterans did not always come back to the 'land fit for heroes' that they'd expected, they felt that they had a much better deal than those that served after them or are currently serving.

Two of the recurring themes were firstly the way in which veterans are treated in other countries, particularly the US. None of these old (and not so old) boys and girls felt that the country owed them a living, but all felt that, having served that country and in most cases risked their lives, there should be some benefits other than a not particularly good pension and a small veterans badge, something along the lines of the US Veterans Administration.

The second recurring theme was the frustration that they felt, having served their country, in seeing illegal immigrants or clerics preaching hatred against Britain whilst enjoying the freedom to do so because he was living in Britain, receiving better treatment and more benefits than they were. As one WWII veteran said, if it hadn't been for his generation fighting as they did and destroying the fascist German regime, many of these people would have been exterminated as 'Enemies of the Reich'.

Whilst in the UK we are seeing more of a recognition of the commitment and sacrifice that the Veterans have made, it has been an uphill struggle. Will we ever see something similar to the VA. Unlikely, as it may mean MPs giving up the 'John Lewis list'.

The second thing that was mentioned impersonators, 'Walts' in military jargon after the character in the film 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'. As I have said, there were a lot of gongs on display at this event, and it was assumed that all were genuinely earned, but this is not always the case. There are people who will swagger around with a chest full of medals bought from e-bay, because in this country they can. In many countries, to pass yourself off as a serviceman or woman, past or present, is illegal. In the UK, at present and as far as I can establish, it is not. Many of the veterans felt that these people devalued the awards that they had received as well as insulted the memories of those who had died in service.

So why will the Government not have a law put on the statute books. they seem keen enough to vote through lots of nannying laws that impinge on individual freedoms. Again, many of the Veterans saw the lack of action as a real slap in the face.

Rant over.