RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

So, What’s Going On…

As the more alert readers of my Twitter feed may have noticed I have been seeing quite a lot of the RAF Medical Services recently, notably one doctor whom I’ll call Wing Commander (Wg Cdr) N. N for nice guy. N for n….ace. For that is what he has been so far…

So about what is going on…over a year ago, during a routine medical it was noticed that I had an elevated Blood Pressure (only about 150/90 or so) but that is still elevated…It was monitored for a while and was never too high, and a bit of dietary advice was given (cut out salt) and I was sent on my way.

But recently I have been feeling a bit odd. Tired for no reason, and suffering a lot of headaches and eye strain. Getting anxious over tiny things, feeling on edge. So out came the Blood Pressure monitor…and Woah! What the heck? It is very high. Very high…180/110…

So off I go to see the doc, who is new to the base, and apparently the RAF – having transferred from the Royal Navy very recently – Wg Cdr N. He takes my BP and concurs that it is very high…He tells me he wants to get some more readings and over a week I see the nurse and back to him. Each time the BP is high, so I have my blood taken (there and then as I am a needle phobic!) and recommended for an ECG. He is concerned, not worried, but concerned.

The ECG comes back normal, but the problem is I have been having chest pains when doing exercise – now this is worrying…so he has referred me off to have an exercise ECG…and says he’ll see me in two weeks. Fine. And then I have the weekend I just had. The tiredness is back big time. I am fatigued by walking up stairs. I am breathless after doing very little. I can stand and iron clothing for an hour, but walking round Sainsbury’s leaves me shattered. And my left arm feels numb. Heavy.

So it meant that this morning I had to go back to see Doc N. My BP is 183/120. Worryingly high. The blood test results (testing for kidney damage and my cholesterol) are not back, but my symptoms are enough for him to start me on medication for his diagnosis of Hypertension.

So, he’s sent me home for a coupe of days and want to see me again in a couple of days…which is nice ‘cos this afternoon I am going to sleeeeeeeeeep.

But not before I’ve had a moment or two of emotion. I am not particularly worried by the diagnosis or the treatment – high blood pressure is after all just a number on a scale. And it’s an indication of what could happen in the future. It doesn’t mean anything in itself. I lived for a year with elevated pressure and didn’t really notice it…so now with the medication it’ll come down again, and I’ll be back to feeling normal.

But my emotion is of anger actually. Ok, so I am not THAT fit, I could be fitter, but I am fitter than a lot of people that I know. Service as well as civilian. I eat very well. I have my five-a-day, drink plenty of fluids, never smoke, drink only a moderate amount…I just feel, well, hard done to.

What more can I do? I am in the low risk groups for heart problems. I look at the literature on the web, and see the pictures of people with Blood Pressure problems and they are predominantly of older people. Not 40 year old, fairly fit, members of the RAF. Doc N gave me a list of things to watch out for, and to consider, but all that did was leave me to feel even harder done by. I am 40 for goodness sake. I go to the gym 3-4 times a week. I run 3.5 miles at a time, I bike about 9-10miles straight after…I am active. It just feels so, so bloody unfair.

And I am left with a sense of loss. And regret. I spent a lot of my earlier career working damn hard. I didn’t get to the gym as much as I should have. I put a bit of weight on in my mid 30’s but I worked that off and began to enjoy the gym. I want to carry on going to the gym – indeed there is a lot I still want to do – and sort of know I will do again, but right now it feels a bit distant. Getting fatigued after walking 400 yards from the bus-stop is a long way from me wanting to run another half marathon this year (which is what I was working towards), and sitting here on the sofa this afternoon it feels a really long way off. It all seems so uncertain. It raises huge questions for me…

What if the BP doesn’t come down? What does that mean for the future? For me? For my health? For my family?

And then there’s work…what does it mean for staying in the RAF? I honestly don’t know. I mean I know of people in the past who had high blood pressure, but that was in a time when the services were less stretched. Will I ever be allowed to go Out Of Area? I already feel a bit of a fraud at not having been out – if I am downgraded and stuck in the UK…I honestly don’t know how I’d feel at that. But I do know that any feeling that it induced wouldn’t be a happy one. And it’s thoughts of Out Of Area that linger in my mind the most.

Because the biggest and strongest feeling I have is guilt.  I have felt awful the past few days, physically, but there has been that lingering feeling of guilt knocking about in my head all the time.  Although we don’t hear about it, people are being brought home from theatre with FAR bigger problems than I have. Injured, limbless, and with potential PTSD and future mental health problems. I have seen people break down talking about their friends who have been killed.

My problems are nothing compared to theirs. I have a bit of something that can be treated and I know that I will eventually be under control. My life might change a little, but theirs has changed massively. I will get over this and remember that in the grand scheme of things that although I am not feeling the best I can, I can and will feel a lot better than some poor souls in the military today.


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8 thoughts on “So, What’s Going On…

  1. Surely you’re not medically non-deployable just b/c of having to take bp tabs? In the US forces, uncontrolled high bp can make you non-deployable. As you say the services are stretched and can’t afford to lose good techs with gobs of training because of a treatable condition. I will be mean and ironic and say that it’s a cruel joke that I, blob of unfit fat that I am, have way lower bp than you do. Just think though where you’d be if you weren’t fit and had that bp?

    We have a Soldier here who was off to his dream job as an airborne ranger, but in the pretraining physical he found out he’d only had one kidney all his life. Not deployable. Crestfallen.

    As am I for you; even though I’m pretty sure it’ll all come out right in the end. Do keep us informed.

    • I am a big fan of irony, and know that I have a fairly healthy lifestyle…and that still my bp is probably higher than a lot of people who have far less active and healthy lifestyles than me.

      But life is full of sodding ironies. It’s just how we deal with them.

      As for the future…who the hell knows. I certainly don’t and to be honest, it’s far too early to say or do anything about it.

      But I will keep everyone informed.

  2. Heeeey hun, sorry to hear that you have been diagnosed with that!

    My mum has hypertension, was diagnosed about 5 years ago. She doesn’t feel anything at all about it anymore (in fact noon ever brings it up) she just feels normal because of the meds. I’m sending you big hugs but I know you will deal with it and soon it will be as insignificant to you as a grey hair on your head, part of you you wish wasn’t there but that you accept as part of you. You must also remember is ISN’T YOUR FAULT. There is no forward planning you can do to prevent things like this, my mum has always been healthy and active and fit, she does hours and hours of exercise every day (and has continued to do so during and post diagnosis) we have animals that need taking care of so she just gets on with it.

    I know you will be fine because you seem like a very level headed and strong person, so I know this diagnosis won’t bother you after you’ve got used to it. I suppose the trick is to understand how to live with it and how to fit it around your life rather than how to fit your life around it 🙂

    Big hugs, keep smiling 🙂

  3. Just my 2 pence worth, and firstly may I say I am not medically trained in any way, so that’s my first point really. I think it’s good to look up things on that there inter web about medical stuff and all & to discuss it with friends on the web it doesn’t make you a cybercondriac. That said at the end of the day everyone is different and it’s only the fully trained Medical Professionals that have the answers & sometimes even with them it’s trial and error. Second point, and you’ve mentioned a few in your post about hypertension, like lifestyle & salt and not 2 much booze etc, and well from what you say you tick a lot of the good should do boxes, rather that the bad need to change boxes. I digress, second point, is that Stress (can) also cause you BP to elevate. Now by this I don’t mean the “Oh my god the Station Commander has amended that request again!” type stress & “I have 101 other things to do” type stress. I just mean White coat stress. OMG the nurse is putting that cuff on my arm again, wonder what the score will be this time (then it’s high) then you think about it all the time until the next check, then you sit in the waiting room waiting to be called thinking about it, “I’m only 40 & I’m fit, why me?” sort of stress. So as I say for the second time, I am not a medical pro, but in time for your next appointment, I’d take a brisk walk down to the SMC (just to get your heart going a bit, if you’ve been flying a desk for an hour or two with your post it notes) if you like imagine you are going to be late (even though you are in time and will get there 5 mins early) then when in the waiting room, I’d pick up a copy of the RAF News & read your fav article on Spitfires or something, relax, put yourself on leave in your head sort of thing. Maintain this chillaxing with the nurse even when the cuff gets tight on your arm etc and think about the results only when presented with them afterwards. Finally, for the 3rd time I’ll say “I am not medically trained” but I know your partner is and it’s therefore only natural for you both to talk about this, but leave it to Wg Cdr n and I’m sure he’ll get to sort things out, if there is anything in your path work (bloods) they’ll be able to sort that as well, and as you say “there’s always someone else in a worst condition than you”. So let them sort yourself out with whatever pills or whatever they decide and I am sure you will update us, but only update us when you are sorted, the blogesphere can wait 😉

  4. I have to admit, I did wonder with the few snippets you mentioned. I understand your frustration, when you seem to lead a pretty healthy life, your guilt about your reaction when others are far worse off than you and your anger at finding yourself in this position. It sounds like you are being correctly monitored (and I think I’m correct in thinking that your GF is in the medical profession so that’s a plus) so all you can do is make sure you keep up the healthy living and try not to let this take over every part of your life. Don’t let it be the only thing you focus on. I wish you all the best and hope that your Doctor will get to the bottom of the problem soon.

  5. Carol_51 on said:

    Sorry to hear you have been disagnosed with Hypertension my mum has suffered with high blood pressure for a number of years and takes medication, stress seems to make my mum’s symptoms worse ie my dad is unwell at the moment.

    Have you thought of a blood pressure monitor you can wear on your wrist for peace of mind?

    At least you know what you are dealing with now, the symptoms can be very worrying especially breathlessness and fatigue.

    I’m sure the tablets will help, hope so.

  6. Ali Nicoll on said:

    hope it gets sorted out soon and your up and running 100% sooner rather than later.

  7. DMARIESTL on said:

    Some of this can be contributed to genetics; genetics do not care how fit you are. And, don’t feel guilty for feeling angry/sad/frustrated. I think those are all natural reactions when you receive negative health news. Give yourself a couple of days to get used to the idea, do your homework (or more of it) and then come out swinging.

    Rest, think positive thoughts, and enjoy your baby girl. I’ll be praying that you are feeling better than ever in no time.

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