Thank God I was only in the open ward for a day. There were some very noisy visitors there and I could never doze for long.
But then it was back to the hotel! It felt like paradise! God is good indeed! The doctors asked me to get as much exercise as I could, and they gave me a date for a review in a couple of weeks. I was actually instructed to visit the malls and walk. Which I did! The best part of this recovery period? Have you seen South African women?! And there seemed to be quite a few South African women in Pretoria, strangely enough.
My poor wife spent half her time after the procedure fielding phone calls from all parts of the world asking after me. It was somewhat gratifying to find out that I would have been missed after all! Well.....
I celebrated my birthday during this period of recuperation. It was just the two of us sitting in a very nice restaurant having lunch, but let me assure you: it was THE BEST birthday ever! I was alive.
After days of bumming around looking at South African women, getting better every day, we went back to the clinic. There I finally met the original doctor I had been communicating with from Accra. A really really nice man. A soft-spoken humble gentleman. He had some good stories about the FIFA World Cup that had just been held in SA where he was an official competition doctor.
I offered my sympathies for the loss of his brother. He was very pleased with my progress. I had an ECG, EKG, stress test, and they took blood for more tests. I was asked to return in a couple days. If the results were good I could leave for Accra. As soon as we got back to the hotel I called Accra and asked our travel agent to book seats for the day after the next visit to the clinic. I asked God to please let the results be okay; I miss Ghana! Especially since I thought I wouldn't be seeing it again!!
The flight back was good; we didn't fight over any food. That first early morning in Accra was, well, indescribable. Home! In one piece (although the wife made it two pieces I guess). Breathing the air in my native city. It was also the first time I had dropped my trousers with no hesitation for my big sister! I had to show her the beautiful black and blue collage that was my groin. That's where they entered the vein that took them to my heart you see.
The immediate period after getting home was one of more rest and recuperation. But I need to tell you about one thing in particular. I was an emotional wreck. Privately I was undergoing mood swings that I didn't quite understand. From sheer joy at being alive and well, to deeply depressed periods where I would end up in tears. One morning I was alone at home, feeling physically on top of the world when in an instant I went way down to feeling irredeemably gloomy. I cried, sobbing my eyes out. I swear if our househelp had stumbled across me she might have fled the house. It was that bad.
Later on my good friend (thank you very much Kwasi Nkansah!) gave me a book about recovering from heart attacks, and that's where I discovered what was going on. In the Western world heart attack, survivors receive major counselling after any major procedure. Indeed some receive extended counselling depending on the state of mind they find themselves in at that time. I did not. The only counselling I received in Pretoria was the counselling my wife applied quite expertly in our hotel room (doctor approved)! And that particular brand of counselling continued in Accra, much to my heart's delight.
But it wasn't enough. Apparently, the mood swings were a direct result of the trauma I had been through. My doctor in Pretoria confirmed it when we went back that October for a review. He apologised and we had a somewhat abbreviated session right there and then. My results at that review were very good, every aspect of them. I don't know how that happened; it was certainly nothing to do with me. In fact, he said there was almost no sign of a cardiac event. I met him again about a year later when he came to Accra for a physicians conference. I had noticed he was coming and he asked me to run several tests and have the results ready for him. I got a clean bill of health again.
It was at that physicians conference that I met the radiologist who had analysed the angiogram tests at Akai House Clinic. He was not in Ghana when I did those tests, but the results were sent to him. It turns out his response was for them to tell my doctor to get me out of the country as soon as possible because my heart was failing. As he himself was out of the country he didn't know what happened subsequently. The poor man thought I had died, so bad was the heart he saw in those results. So when he saw me a year and a half later walking around he honestly thought he was seeing a ghost! Me? A ghost?? I'm too much of an afraid man to be a ghost myself.
My wife called me when I started work again, and read something to me over the phone: 1 out of 3 people who suffer heart attacks will die on the way to the hospital. I did some more reading and discovered that you should never drive to the hospital or be driven to the hospital when you experience heart attack symptoms. CALL AN AMBULANCE! And yet....my wife....the slowest driver in Accra....drove me to the hospital...TWICE.
One thing I have often done since the heart attacks is asking several 'what if' questions. What if this thing had happened when I was driving? While I was sexually active? What if I had been alone? What if we had gotten to the hospital too late? What if the particular doctors who attended to me were not present? Asking these questions has made me more aware of the miraculous nature of these two heart attacks. The whole event from first heart attack till full recovery was one massive miracle, beginning to end. It is well because my Redeemer lives. My friends, Jesus conquers.
A heart attack is a serious thing. Two heart attacks....well. I have received numerous comments from you wonderful RamiTalks readers mentioning that I seem to make light of a very serious situation. If I tell you that I have been trying, (please note: trying), to write the posts on the heart attacks since March 2017 when I started the blog, you might understand. I tried and failed many times because each time I tried it felt like I was re-living the actual heart attacks. I gave up several times. Eventually, I realised that humour was my way out. By looking at what happened to me through squinted eyes I think I made the posts more palatable for you to read and ensured that I could cope better. In fact, I believe these blog posts are acting as part of the counselling I never received. Therapy, innit?!
Let me tell you something, the doctors at Korle-bu are working with one arm tied behind their back. But they are working, very well indeed. They are incredible people. If I received a blessing for every time a doctor at Korle-bu performed a miracle, I would be over-loaded with blessings (as if I am not already). I can't mention all the names but God bless you miracle workers at Korle-bu. Doctors, nurses, house officers, technicians, interns, cleaners, all of you, medaase!
You need to know that all the medical situations that have been mentioned in these posts about my heart attack would never have happened but for the financial intervention of Ecobank Ghana. At the time I was covered by a Group health insurance, and the Managing Director at the time went over and above that to make sure I stayed alive. Again, too many people to mention individually, but my Ecobank peeps, God bless you all by heart!
So how does a guy with a wife who is intensely conscious of her health and fitness, watches her diet fastidiously, and owns and runs her own medical laboratory, have two heart attacks?? Wait, I know: I was foolish, very foolish. Although....these heart attacks occurred in 2010, the same year my wife released a book titled The Twelfth...HEART! My God!! I just realised it!! You don't think....do you....?? She knew something about it!
One of the things the wife said which made me feel like I dare not die was, paraphrased, "I have put too much work into you, and I would like to enjoy the fruits of my labour." What can you do after that except live? And while you live, live right. Eat right. Exercise regularly. Routine medical check-ups are essential (go to Patholab in Adabraka, the owner is nice and the staff are great). Get rid of stress in your life. Seriously. And most of all, put God front and centre in your life. Pray without ceasing. Seriously.
"As for me, except for an occasional heart attack, I feel as young as I ever did." Robert Benchley
A friend of mine has gone further than me in talking about surviving a heart attack in Accra. He's written a book. Find it and buy it, now: HEARTBEATS OF GRACE by DAVID OKAI.