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Welcome to my latest blog page, where you will find my latest update. I hope you enjoy reading it, if you have any comments, please drop me an email Paul

If you want to catch up with some posts you may have missed, head over to the Past Trips page.

12th March 2019: A new bike and some more training

The entry below describes the last major event in my eventful life, when I had a slight hiccup with my health. Since then I've been quite busy resting and recuperating, with a weekly Cardiac Rehabilitation session at Oldham Royal Infirmary. These are rather enjoyable sessions of exercise in the company of physiotherapists and a cardiac nurse and I'm delighted to report that I'm doing very well. I exercise to a level appropriate to a gentleman of a certain age with a heart condition, getting my heart rate up to around 120bpm for around half and hour then after a warm-down am allowed back home again. In between sessions I've been trying to get out walking with a friend and am thoroughly enjoying the exercise, although in the last couple of weeks we've missed the walks as he's injured his knee!

There have also been some developments on the new adventure front. Most important of which has been that I've taken delivery of my new bike - a BMW R1250GS Rallye TE with the adventure sports suspension. I collected it on 1st March (along with my friend, Anne, who also picked up her identical but lowered model) and then did 600 miles over the weekend running it in. Once it had been serviced, I fitted all the extras I deemed necessary to create my ideal adventure-touring bike. These are:

Fitting this little lot took a full (long) day, but once fitted the bike is ready to head off on an adventure. The following weekend gave me chance to fit the panniers and go for a ride, as it was time for some Tour-Guide and First Aid training with my friends at Globebusters.

This was held at their new HQ in Chesterfield, so I rode down on the Thursday and met up with the rest of the team that were staying at the Ibis in town. The 2-day Tour Guide training was as interesting as ever, the first day spent recapping on running a tour, roles and responsibilities of the crew and the processes and procedures we follow. The second day was spent reviewing the processes for dealing with more serious incidents, something that I hope I don't have to deal with for real but at least I'm well-prepared just in case. The Sunday and Monday were reserved for 2 days of Outdoor First Aid, which is tailored for us by the trainer and covers everything from minor cuts and bruises right through to... well, let's just say that I hope I never have to use my training for real!

Now that I'm back home again I'm preparing for a few Enhanced Rider Scheme training sessions later this week and early next as well as reviewing plans for my trip to Europe. More details to follow in subsequent posts!

31st October 2018: A Halloween Scare

The second time they woke me it felt like I’d been hit in the ribs with a sledgehammer. Why do they not just let me sleep? I thought as I stared at the square fluorescent light above my head. Then I saw them, several of them gathered round my bed looking concerned. That’s when I realized what had just happened. I was in Oldham Royal Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department and they’d just administered the second shock from the defibrillator. No wonder they looked concerned. I felt fine, apart from the pain in my ribs, and was now wide awake. A few mundane questions from the consultant and they started to relax as it was obvious I was back-in-the-room. Not long afterwards I was wheeled outside and into the back of an ambulance accompanied by the consultant and off we went, blue lights flashing and sirens blaring. I stared out at the blue sky through the sky-light and the thought hit me hard. This was likely to mess up my plans to guide the Globebusters motorcycle expedition from London to Tokyo next April. Bugger.

On arriving at Manchester Royal Infirmary I was wheeled into the critical coronary care unit and the consultant from Oldham handed me over to another doctor who was overseeing the drips I was being fitted with. I asked what they were for and was told one was just fluids to stop me dehydrating and the other an anti-coagulant to help keep my blood from clotting and blocking me up again. Within a few minutes I was struggling to swallow, and realized my tongue was very swollen – I’d probably bitten it during the second shock – so they removed the anti-coagulant to stop the bleeding inside my tongue. Then I was taken into theatre where I had an angioplasty – a small tube inserted in my radial artery in my wrist and up into my heart – by a consultant cardiologist. He located the problem, a clot had blocked the stent I’d had fitted after my heart attack in 2012, and removed it, then inserted another stent. He showed me the before and after images and it was no wonder I’d had a problem, the artery supplying blood to the muscle of my heart had been completely cut off.

My symptoms that started in the gym, where I was having a gentle workout something I’d done many times before without issue, were initially a slight dizziness as though I was about to pass out. The dizziness was accompanied by the sensation of my vision closing in, and a heaviness in my left arm, both symptoms I recognized from my 1st heart attack and so I’d requested the ambulance. When the paramedics first arrived they did an ECG, which was normal, and took my blood pressure, which was very low. By the time they transferred me to the ambulance, the aspirin I’d taken, and resting on the floor with my legs raised, had done the job and my blood pressure was normal. What happened in A&E was therefore unexpected, as I was totally fine until I was given a GTN spray (glyceryl trinitrate) which I suspect opened my blood vessels sufficiently to allow the clot, which was reducing blood supply, to move and completely cut off the supply, leading to my heart going arrhythmic and so not pumping blood round my body. Known as a Cardiac Arrest, this is different to a heart attack as it causes the patient to become unconscious (with a heart attack the patient is conscious) and is very serious – CPR is required and a shock from a defibrillator necessary to shock the heart back into rhythm before the patient dies from lack of oxygen.

Once out of theatre I was transferred to the Acute Cardiac Care ward and into a bed. I felt just fine, but then I’d felt fine before the GTN spray. The only problem I had was a very swollen tongue and a pain in the ribs from the horse that kicked me. Or that’s how it felt. Now my mind had time to contemplate what had happened. I had three concerns.

As it transpired, Tracy cut her holiday short when I told her I was in hospital and would be for 3-4 days. I kept the full details of what happened from her for now, telling only that I’d had another heart attack and so had had another stent fitted. I didn’t want her worrying and when I could tell her face to face I did, that way she could see I was fine. I was discharged from hospital and home before she got back, and resting as I’d been told to do, determined to follow all the medical advice to maximise chances of a speedy recovery.

Nothing much happened for a few weeks, except I read lots of books, and on 12th December I had another echocardiogram. I had been told when I was discharged from hospital that there were signs that my heart had been compromised during the incident, and that my left ventricular ejection fraction (a measure of the percentage of the blood drawn in from the lungs that’s then pumped round the body) was low – 30% - 40% - when a normal range is 50% - 70%. I had been quite short of breath as a consequence, but this had improved significantly in the weeks since my discharge, so I was expecting the latest echo to show a good improvement. Unfortunately, it didn’t, with my LVEF being measured at just 35% - 45%. That meant that the damage to my heart muscle hadn’t repaired itself as well this time, probably due to the severity of the blockage and subsequent arrest. With reduced heart function, travel to altitude was going to be a no-no.

So it was necessary to withdraw from guiding the Globebusters trip, a decision that was mutual as they had concluded that I probably wouldn’t be fit and had already planned for that eventuality. Which left me with a big hole in my plans. I was still recovering, but in no doubt that I’d be fit enough to travel as long as I didn’t try anything too extreme (like spending 4 weeks at high altitude on the Tibetan plateau!). I also had to let Andrew and Darryl know that I wouldn’t be able to guide them, and to encourage them to do the trip anyway, and to share their experiences with me.

With my plans derailed, I now had to come up with an alternative. So I did, and tomorrow I will take the first tangible step towards my new plan. I’m collecting a new bike, on which which I will be riding on a 3-month solo road trip round both Eastern and Northern Europe, details of which I’ll post as we get closer to my intended departure date at the end of April.

Tune is again soon to find out all about my new bike and my plans. And wish me good luck in not having them derailed this time!

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