For our celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS this year we asked our colleagues for a story of how this cherished service has touched their lives.
It was almost his thirtieth birthday when Logistics Team Leader Chris Webster started experiencing chest pains. As a healthy young man and avid gym-goer, he assumed they would pass. They didn’t. Chris was having a heart attack. Here, he shares his story and explains how NHS professionals helped him get his confidence back.
“The day before my heart attack, I’d gone skydiving. My sister had bought the experience for me as a thirtieth birthday present. I can’t be sure whether that had anything to do with it, but it hadn’t made me feel particularly anxious. I’d actually quite enjoyed it.
The next morning, I went to the gym for a tough workout and left feeling great. It was only later, when I was driving to Chester with a friend, that I started to feel like something was wrong. There was a tightness in my chest that I expected to go away, but it was persistent. I suggested that we go and get something to eat so I could sit down and drink some water. At that point, the pain was bad, but I didn’t know whether it warranted a trip to the hospital.
Eventually, because it was around the corner, we went to A&E. My grandfather died from angina at the age of 42, so I suspected that something might be wrong with my heart. Despite that, I still thought the hospital staff would just tell me to stop being a wimp and send me on my way.
Instead, when I got to A&E, they gave me an ECG, which showed elevated cardiac enzymes. The consultant told me he’d have to check again in seven hours’ time. My girlfriend was on the ferry on the way back from Ireland when I rang to tell her. Seven hours’ later, the second ECG confirmed that I’d had a heart attack.
If I’d have known how serious things were, I might have been a little bit less calm. But the staff were so pleasant and in control of the situation that I felt safe. We even had a bit of a laugh and a joke. They weren’t blasé; they just knew how to put people at ease.
After two days, I was moved to the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital where an angiogram showed a slight blockage and a blood clot, which had been caused by a small tear in the artery. It was the blood clot that had blocked the flow of blood and triggered the heart attack.
To help with my recovery, I went to cardiac rehab sessions. Usually, the staff there are working with elderly people, trying to get them fit again. As I was a regular at the gym and already quite fit, it was more about rebuilding my confidence. At first, I wasn’t keen to push myself physically, but they encouraged me to get my heart rate up. I felt like I was in a safe environment, so I did four or five sessions there until I felt ready to return to my local gym.
During my time at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, much like the Countess of Chester Hospital, the care I was given was second to none. Despite that fact that they were incredibly busy, you were made to feel like their top priority, even though you were one of hundreds of priorities. The whole operation they delivered was flawless. I can’t see how you could have got better care anywhere else.
NHS staff do their jobs because they care. My girlfriend is a midwife at Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, so I know how hard it can be. As Brits, we sometimes forget how lucky we are and how good the NHS is, but when something serious happens, they’re there and they’re excellent.”