Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Flying Doctors

Dear world,

Hello…….I’m still alive! Sorry I’ve not posted a blog for an eternity. Not sure where the time has gone, it’s been a busy 2018 so far. My mum and dad came down under to visit for 2 months over Christmas where we had a big family Cousins/Spencer Christmas at our house in Warrnambool, hosting 12 adults, 3 kids and 1 baby. It was great for both families to meet and as I predicted all got on amazingly well! 

Shortly after, my friend Carly flew in for a few weeks, where we explored a number of Melbourne’s finest rooftop establishments and ate and drank our body weight in good food and copious amount of wine and cocktails! 

I then had a small break of visitors before my sister, brother-in-law and niece and nephew made the arduous 34 hour journey. It was fantastic having them all over and even though I knew my time with them was limited, fun was definitely on the agenda!
In April 2018 I started my “proper” job since arriving in Australia. I have had a few comical job titles in the past e.g. ‘Avon lady’ and ‘Leakage Coordinator’ but my current title definitely wins the award for the longest: ‘Project Lead – Preventing and Managing Occupational Violence and Aggression’ or OVA for short! In essence I am trying to ensure the local hospital in Warrnambool remains safe for all workers. It’s definitely a challenge as I’ve not worked in the health sector before and not implemented an organisation wide project, but one I am definitely relishing.

We had a few ‘quiet’ months before we flew off to Greece for Juzzy’s brother’s wedding in Patras, before having a family holiday in Kefalonia where my mum and Grandma joined us for a few days. It was great seeing them and fab that my 84 year old Grandma could come along for the adventure. She thoroughly enjoyed herself and loved meeting all of Juzzy’s family. 

Juz and I then circumnavigated the Southern Peloponnese, driving 2,500km in total. It was an adventure and great to see another part of Greece, compared to my early 20s when it was all about the excitement of Club 18-30 in Malia and Faliraki and what trouble we could get into! My, how I am growing up!
Since early 2016 I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve been stable with my PH. I’ve had check-ups every 6 months and the results along the way have indicated all the pressures are the same and to keep doing what I am doing as it is working. I must admit though, I’ve been a bit lax of late on the fitness side. Too much entertaining, drinking and eating has got in the way, plus now its winter the dark nights make it hard to go out for a run etc. I know, excuses, excuses! But I definitely have the motivation to get back into the fitness so that’s the first hurdle.

One area I have struggled whilst having PH is trying not to over react every time I don’t feel myself, and instantly assume my PH is getting worse and I have a matter of days to live. God I sound so dramatic! Granted I am better than I used to be, but it’s still an issue for me. I started to feel unwell about a week or so after returning from Greece. Trying to keep an open mind and not instantly jump onto the PH bandwagon I tried to explore a multitude of options with a number of healthcare professionals from musculoskeletal, infection, stress, autoimmune through to blood clot. During this time all the results came back negative, which in a way was good to rule things out but also incredibly frustrating. I genuinely started to question if the pain was all made up in my head. After a number of ‘attacks’ during the last 6 weeks, last Sunday evening whilst preparing dinner another ‘attack’ hit me. I know I am a bit of a perfectionist in the kitchen and take pride in my cooking, but I didn’t realise my cheese grating skills would create the drama that enfolded!

I can only describe the pain as “I’m having a heart attack”. Dramatic I know, aged 34! I couldn’t breathe. I had to clutch my chest to try and relieve it in some way. The pain lasted an hour and a half before being given medication at the Emergency Department which instantly relieved it. As usual for me, all tests showed nothing. I wasn’t having a heart attack. I didn’t have a blood clot. My heart wasn’t enlarged. The CT scan showed nothing. The chest x-ray was clear.

Then finally, some activity showed up on my ECG whilst having an ‘attack’. “Yes” I quietly said to myself, "I’m not a fraud". I finally have proof that there is something going on. After a traumatic 24 hours, where a ‘MET call’ was called for me (which involves about 15 doctors and nurses running into your room at break neck pace) whilst my resting heart rate was pumping at 137 beats per minute and blood pressure was insanely high, I was then transferred to ICU, before it was decided I would be better being transferred to the Alfred hospital, where they have a cardiology department and also where my PH specialists are.

I wasn’t thrilled about facing a 4 hour ambulance ride going backwards (I get motion sickness) but I was pleased that I was going to see the specialists in the hope they could work out what was going on. Next thing I know the paramedics arrive and announce we need to leave now as the plane is ready and waiting for me! Now anyone who has read my previous blogs likely knows I am a terrible flyer and get really anxious when flying! Probably not perfect timing to throw flying into the mix when my resting heart rate at this point on average was 100! Anyway they reassured me that it would be better for me, as less time to get to Melbourne and they could offer me some kind of ‘relaxant’ to get me through the journey.  

As a child I loved watching the Flying Doctors. I think that is where my first love for Australia came from. So when we arrived at the “airport” and I saw the tiniest plane I'd ever seen my heart skipped a beat! At first I felt like I was on an episode of one of my childhood favourites! Then quite quickly my positivity turned to “oh great the turbulence”. We were lucky, it was a relatively clear day, blue skies, and whilst there was some wind it was only during take-off and landing when we experienced the turbulence. I won’t complain though I am entirely grateful that I was able to use the resource.
I’ve always been a difficult patient to diagnose. The tests nearly all of the time always appear negative. It was the same when they were trying to diagnose PH. It took multiple tests and a week in hospital for them to give me a tentative diagnosis. This episode was no different. The first few days at the Alfred they seemed very focused on checking if I was having a heart attack after each attack and not exploring other options. I was getting more and more disillusioned. In the end Juz and I ended up “having a chat” to the doctors to try and re-focus them to look at what other options there were. It worked, less than 12 hours from having “the chat” I was re-tested and finally the Echo showed fluid around my heart. Along with the movements on the ECG they then at last confirmed I had Pericarditis. It’s not something I had heard of before – basically there is inflammation around the heart sac. They don’t know why I got it, likely I could have had a viral infection and instead of it translating into a cold or flu it attacked my heart. Incredibly painful  but I am just relieved, finally after 6 weeks to have a diagnosis and start medication.

I’m now home. Still in a fair bit of pain and the side effects of the medication aren’t the nicest but hopefully in the next few days I should start to turn a corner. I also learnt from this latest admission I am allergic to even more different medications. I went in allergic to 3, I came out and now allergic to 9! Some feat!!

As always thanks for reading,



  1. Gemsy , . Great blog and what a traumatic time you have had. Pleased you had all the visitors so now no more for a while and time to rest. Aussie sounds the place to be for you and your treatment. Get back your fitness when you can, I swear it is what has improved my ph amongst other things, denervation and meds etc. Tons of love and a hope of a speedy recovery. Carole xx

  2. Thanks Carole for your kind words and support. Hope you are keeping well. xx

  3. Blinking heck young lady! You don't do things by halves do you!?
    Glad your on the mend lots of love xxx

  4. Hi Gemsy great blog thoroughly enjoyed reading it - I too loved flying doctors
    Glad you got sorted in the end and treatment has started. As Carole said time to rest now and get better. Ive have learnt that after any activity/event I need to plan at least x2 days rest afterwards. Life does definitely go on with PH and you are a shining example of this - enjoy your life in Australia xxx


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