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.