Heart failure – the devil in the detail…

As you might know, I have heart failure – diagnosed 2 years ago. And it’s 2 years to the day that I got myself discharged before they had a second attempt at killing me (see next para), or five days and nights of sleep deprivation tipped me into a breakdown.

My previous cardiologist couldn’t ascribe a cause, despite the fact that I have two conditions, severe COPD, and aortic valve calcification, either of which, or both, could cause it. Given the severity and suddenness of onset, my guess is that, whichever, it was exacerbated by the pneumonia and empyema with which I was admitted to hospital, pulmonary backpressure overstressing my heart, not helped by the half-witted attempt to administer 2 litres i-v saline when my lungs were already awash. Maybe he just wasn’t sure which?** Whatever, he buggered off after I’d refused to submit to dangerous tests when safer and non-invasive alternatives were available (catheterisation of my left ventricle, via the already damaged valve, for example, carries a 24% risk of stroke – the same information can be obtained by other, very much safer, means).

**It doesn’t bloody matter!

I now have a cardiologist who has apparently decided to ignore my heart failure (to my detriment when he went for a too-high dose of beta-blocker), and simply focus on my hypertension (I’ve covered this in detail in previous posts). So I’ve made a unilateral decision to stay away from cardiologists unless there’s an emergency.

So, over the last two years I’ve gathered a lot of information about heart failure, mostly pretty technical but, a few days ago, I found the Top 10 Signs of Heart Failure on Yahoo Health, which is worth sharing.

It’s explained in non-technical terms, and might be useful to anyone who has recently been diagnosed with heart failure, or who has family members, or friends, who are affected, as it’s hard to grasp, from the outside looking in, just how devastating it can be.

It says that two or more of the signs should be investigated.** Personally, I think that depends on which signs. In some cases – the inability to breathe and sleep lying down, for example, is cause enough on its own if there’s no other condition to account for it.

**Me? I’ve got the full set plus a few extras.

You might want to click through to the Stages of Heart Failure page too.

Not cheerful reading, but useful. If the non-invasive tests had been carried out (CT scan, echocardiogram), instead of being petulantly abandoned, I suspect I’d be at or close to Stage D. Without them my best guess is somewhere between C and D.

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