A few days ago I was talking with my father about the research he is doing for me. I am writing a novel about the First World War and his father and father- in-law were both involved in this. He has already found out lots of useful information and was very excited to be discussing this on the phone with me. He lives in the south west of England. My wife and I live on the French Riviera. A thousand miles separate us but we keep in touch twice a week by phone.
My father is an old man yet his mental faculties are remarkable. When we don’t have access to the internet and need to find a fact I will ring Dad and invariably he will know the answer. I have come to think of him as WikiDaddy.
In this phone call, however, I began to get concerned. My dad’s speech was slurred and he was losing the thread of his conversation. I asked him if he was ok and he said he had blacked out and fallen down that morning, hitting his head in the process.
I phoned for help and within minutes the para-medics were at his house and he was whisked off to hospital. I was so glad that my memory had failed the day previously and I had forgotten to call him. If I had have done I wouldn’t have phoned on the day of his fall and would not have realised he had something wrong with him.
Something we found out was life-threatening. His heart was working at a rate of only 30 beats a minute.
The next day, Friday, we discussed the possibility of him being fitted with a pacemaker. The hospital said it was the only option for him.
On Monday night I was phoned by a distraught doctor to say that Dad had just had a cardiac arrest and the doctors were working on him. They succeeded in restarting his heart but it had been very difficult.
We booked two seats on Easyjet at 2.00 in the morning and went to bed. We didn’t sleep much that night.
Tuesday was Dad’s 89th birthday. I rang the hospital early in the morning and was told that he had just had a second cardiac arrest. The doctor said he was very poorly indeed. When a man’s 89 and has had two heart attacks in quick succession that’s not too surprising.
My wife and I began to resign ourselves to the worst. The question in my mind was whether we would be able to get to him in time.
So imagine our surprise when we were told later in the day that he’d been taken 50 miles in an ambulance to be fitted with a pace-maker. The operation seems to have been a success. What a fantastic birthday present for him.
Today I’ve been told he is sitting up in bed and enjoying a meal. As my cousin says, he must be as tough as a horse.
I want to pay tribute to the ambulance service who have done so much to save his life, now and in the past. And to the caring and professional medical staff at Weston Hospital and Bristol Heart Clinic who have worked all out to keep a frail old man alive.
It’s early days yet and we won’t be able to see him until tomorrow. I just hope that the hospital staff don’t take it into their heads to give him the birthday bumps.
Happy birthday, Dad.