This ol’ heart of mine…

Ok, so when we got the new blog I made a promise to try and keep it up to date. And I’ve failed, miserably. So much has happened since my last post I seriously don’t know where to start.

So I’ll start with the biggest news.

On 10th June, whilst paintballing with the lads for Konnor’s birthday, I became very lightheaded and had some pain in my arms. Turns out I had a heart attack. The shock when the doctor told me early the following morning while I sat in A&E following the blood test (the ECG had been normal and they were doing the routing blood test to rule out a heart attack!) almost killed me. The only sign that I’d had one was elevated Tropinin levels in my blood, which can’t be denied. So I spent a very distressing night in “resus”, listening to the dreadful sound of families losing loved ones whilst I lay there connected to a heart monitor and feeling as fit as ever. My lightheadedness, arm pain and mild nausea had long since passed. To cut a long story short, I was in hospital for a week, during which time I read a lot of books on my Kindle and watched England play in the World Cup (I’m surprised they let us watch it on the cardiac ward, perhaps they were short of beds and wanted a few of us to croak from the stress!). During the week I had an ultrasound scan on my heart which showed it was undamaged, then on the Friday I had an angiogram so they could look at my cardiac arteries. That’s where they found the problem, a severely narrowed section of artery restricting the bloodflow to the muscle of my heart. A few minutes later the narrowing was opened with a balloon (not the party type they make dog-shapes out of, but a small surgical one) and then a stent was put in to keep it open. The results of this amazing procedure were then shown to me in the form of “before and after” images, the latter looking like a network of dark wide pipes whilst the former had one that looked like it was the result of a botched plumbing job. I was discharged the following day with strict instructions to rest and do nothing, which for once I followed (Tracy made sure of that!). Since then I’ve started a cardiac rehabilitation course at the hospital which is getting me back to fitness, I’ve modified my diet to cut down on fats & sugars as well as helping me lose weight, and I’ve been walking much more than before.

It was a real shock, but I guess it was to be expected, given I hit several of the high-risk indicators – family history of heart problems with both my parents, high blood pressure (also inherited from my father!), raised cholesterol, ex-smoker (gave up 20 years ago) and overweight (no excuses, that one’s my fault!). But I’m only 50 fer-chrissakes!!

But life, as always, goes on. I’m feeling fine (and have been since 9pm on the day it happened!) and am getting fitter again. I had to take time off from work – which meant not finishing the assignment at Tesco Bank I mentioned last time, although before my incident we’d got the IT Strategy into a good state so they could finish it without me – as well as time away from instructing. But I’m back doing the latter again now, and enjoying it just as much as before.

Other News #1 – Putting myself to the Test, again!

Before my “incident”, I spent a week in the sunshine in St Helens taking a RoSPA Diploma in Advanced Riding Instruction course/exam. This is widely regarded as the highest standard of motorcycle riding/instruction qualification available to those outside the police force, and I went with some trepidation in case I didn’t meet the standard required. The course itself started with an assessment of my riding (which had to be at RoSPA Gold standard and remain there all week!), then we had a day in the classroom before spending the next 2 days “instructing” various role-play scenarios whilst learning on the job. Our instructor was very entertaining as he pretended to be everything from an old boy (ex fighter-pilot type) who was sure his riding was perfect (it wasn’t!) through to a young racer who wanted a faster bike to use on the road (and who rode it like he stole it, but still managed to stay legal!). I was joined on the course by 2 guys from the Derby RoSPA group and we had a great time, and we certainly learnt a lot, most of which was a result of the conversations and debats amongst us whilst our tutor listened and steered the debate towards a conclusion. On the final day we were joined by our examiner and once we’d completed the theory test we went out individually, first to have our riding assessed, then to instruct in another role play (this one more difficult as the rider was already RoSPA Silver standard, going for Gold).

The worst thing about the course, though, was finishing it and not knowing the outcome. It took several weeks before the results were finally made available to us, but I’m glad to report that all 3 of us passed with flying colours. So now I’m permitted to use the letters “RoSPA (Dip)” after my name and tell everyone that will listen, as well as those that won’t, that I’ve got a Diploma in Advanced Riding Instruction!

When the results came through I then went and took the DSA’s Theory Test for post-test trainers, which is basically the same test as new riders take except with more questions and a higher pass mark. And I passed that too, with 100% on the theory test questions and a respectable 80% on the Hazard Perception test (the latter I was a bit miffed about, but the way the test works it’s not unusual for very experienced riders to score low or even fail!). That allowed me to register for the DSA’s Register of Post-Test Motorcycle Trainers and to teach their Enhanced Rider Scheme as well as train experienced riders to take their advanced tests with either the IAM or RoSPA. It also completes all the qualifications I can take as a motorcycle instructor!

Other news #2 – Polly-gone :(

Sadly we’ve had to let Polly go. Our lovely motorhome simply wasn’t getting used the way we intended a year ago when we bought her, and with both boys now living with us, and me working weekends instructing, it looked increasingly unlikely we’d be using her much at all. So we made the difficult decision to sell her. It was emotional handing the keys over to her new owner, but we know we’ve done the right thing as we simply can’t afford to have all that money tied up in something we don’t use. We’ve put some of the proceeds towards an adventure holiday for the boys where they get to do motorsports daily for a week, whilst Tracy and I are escaping to Devon for some relaxation and peace and quiet!

Other news #3 – everything else!

I’m sure there’s been lots of other things that have happened over the past month or so since I last posted, but I really can’t remember them all, and besides, this post is long enough. Let’s hope I get inspired to update the blog more often in the coming weeks, or I’ll have to have a serious rethink as to whether it’s worthwhile keeping it. Let me know what you think – post a comment below!