In 1999 I experienced a mild heart attack which led to various tests being conducted. One of those tests was an angiogram and what I didn’t know until then was that I was allergic to intravenous iodine. The doctors have to inject you with the stuff so that it lights up any blockages in the arteries; what it also does, if you are allergic to it, is that you go into cardiac arrest.
On Monday 9th July 2012 I was at my desk working when I was hit by a series of sharp pains and tightness across the chest, the last of which was so intense I knew something was terribly wrong. The paramedics were subsequently called and I was rushed to the Emergency Department at the Royal North Shore hospital where I was subjected to vast array of tests. I was admitted for overnight observation followed by more tests. The stress test showed a positive result, I thought that meant I was OK – wrong! It meant I wasn’t; when the Cardiac Specialist suggested I need to have an angiogram I felt the blood drain from my body and I told her there is no way I am going to have this. Instead it seems I shall be subjected to a Persantine Sestamibi test which is a scan of the heart muscle. The test in itself lasts for 5 hours. I was scheduled for it for this Friday, but because I am also gripped by a severe cold – probably caught the germ at the hospital – it’s been pushed back a week. However if I fail this then I shall have no option but to have an angiogram. I just hope history doesn’t repeat.
The following short story is an account of my experience back in 1999…………
Pinpoints of Light
Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2009
If you have to drive across France from north to south, then it’s wise to start early in order to get through Paris before the population awakes and takes to the streets. Getting off the Channel ferry at Calais at around midnight you drive along darkened roads, passing dimly lit villages heading towards the grand metropolis.
In my little white, two-seater sports car I feel relaxed and secure. Despite the darkness and loneliness of the empty roads, the gentle glow from the instrument panel and the soft music playing on the radio are soothing. It’s a cloudless and moonless night. The stars, tiny pinpoints of light, are my only companions on this first leg of my long journey. The yellowed headlights bathe the road ahead showing me the way. Driving at a steady pace I appear to speed along although I am well within the speed limit, as regardless of the time the French gendarmes are always out and about ready to catch unsuspecting motorists, particularly holiday-makers who try to break the road rules.
The road, straight and long, never seems to diminish and the darkness is almost overbearing. Where village houses hug the streets’ edge, their cracked walls and peeling paintwork give an impression of neglect and sorrow. Only occasional window boxes reveal a splash of colour where a white or red geranium struggles to survive amidst the fumes from passing traffic. So different from the roads in England that frequently pass through tidy, picturesque villages, with ancient thatched cottages and their glorious gardens, church greens, and compulsory taverns with low ceilings and gravelled driveways.
On the horizon a beam of light comes into view suggesting an oncoming vehicle, yet another lonely traveller upon this lonely road. The gap closes quickly, as the other vehicle’s headlights become larger, filling the view before me. It seems to be a truck of some sort, no doubt heading for the port, taking its load across the water to the United Kingdom. The road is narrow here, so I hug the side and slow down, hoping he will do the same as the alternative could be dangerous. It becomes apparent, as he nears, that slowing down is not on his agenda. I can feel sweat begin to trickle above my eyes and my stomach tighten. My heart beats faster and louder as the truck’s headlights get closer and closer. What can I do? Do I force myself off the road into the ditch? Do I have time? He is almost upon me – Oh My God!
My eyes snap open as I cry out. I hear my voice, but it is muffled as though I’m speaking through a mask. I am speaking through a mask; an oxygen mask. Where am I? I am disorientated. I am lying down in a brightly lit room. I sense people around me. Above me monitors are displaying strange tree like images; a dishevelled man in a white coat is bearing his clenched fists down on my chest. As I feel the impact, I hear my name being called out by several voices sensing their urgency and distress.
I close my eyes to seek out the pinpoints of light. Those stars which only moments before were a comfort, a beckoning peace, but it’s not to be. I am revived one more time amid chaos and anguish, and the sound of voices calling out “Wake up Robert, wake up!” screaming in my ears. I begin to remember my whereabouts. I am in Concord hospital; it’s June 1999, aren’t I having an angiogram? I’m sure I was told to not to fall asleep during the test, but dreaming of the trip across France in 1977 was so captivating and felt so real. I was only asleep, wasn’t I?
RLB – Tomewriter