Saturday 14 July 2018

Coronary Care (2)

So, for those who would like a little more detail around those hard facts in the previous post, some human biology. If you were not paying attention on that day in school where they did respiration and circulation you will need the following fun facts to help you understand my condition.

Lungs are MEANT to be air-filled sacs Ooh, you knew that?. The 'skin' of them (lining) is allowed to be moist or wet but it is intended that the big air-pipes coming in at the top, branch into the two lungs, then branch and branch and branch ever finer like the tiny twig-leaves of a tree or some bizarre rubber mould for a cauliflower head. All these tiny sub-branches and fine fine ends are still air-filled tubes in a healthy lung. When you breathe in the ribs and diaphragm drag this 'sponge' out bigger in all directions, and air rushes in  to all the tiny pockets, nooks and crannies.

The heart is a fist sized, 4 chamber pump made of muscle. The two top chambers (auricles) are there to collect blood from round the body and then fire great charges of blood into the meaty bottom chambers (ventricles), stretching them like a very tough balloons. At the end of this 'whoosh' of blood, the auricle finishes its 'stroke', the blood flow stops and a one-way valve slams shut. This keeps the blood in the ventricle till its turn to 'fire', when the contraction fires all that blood into the main round-the-body artery (aorta) through another valve (aortic valve). The one-way valve to which I referred, between auricle and ventricle is called the mitral valve.

So, what has gone wrong here?

My lungs became temporarily NOT air-filled. Instead they quietly built a pool of thick, sticky "phlegm" which crept up on me, just feeling like " a bit wheezy". I am (was) a great one for avoiding the doctors and the medical people so I did not take myself off to the GP, being convinced that it was just man-flu and I'd recover. Then on June 17th, it all shut down. I'd been doing some fairly hard work in the morning, moving cattle-muck but I have no reason to think that had anything to do with this. Three hours later, that evening, I was suddenly unable to do anything - walk more than 30 yds,  lift a tin of dog food, get the kettle on. I was banjaxed. When I tried I would quickly be stopped by lack of breath, my breath trying to come in great, wheezy, crackly gasps and my airways feeling like rough cardboard tubes. I could no more fill my lungs down to the diaphragm with "deep breath" than fly to the moon. Clearly a problem.

My heart, we have found in the course of all this medical investigation, has a slight pro-lapse of the mitral valve. That big one-way valve I mentioned? In one place on the rim of it, part of the edge 'farts' back into the auricle like a whoopie-cushion. It's not a disaster, it may have been there years, and it may have no relevance to this pneumonia but such leaks can make the flow of blood and liquids round the body much less efficient, so might have helped the build up of fluid on my lungs and my swollen ankles. This goes into the category of "noted". If work is needed then it may well be replacement of the mitral valve with a mechanical bit, but for now the team are going with the fluid reduction solution. THEN they will worry about hearts.

That's it for this one.

1 comment:

Care Towers said...

Good grief Matt, this is not good - I thought I was the one with the heart condition! We don't need two dodgy tickers in the family, for Christ's sake. Given the lack of breath, energy, etc., I don't suppose they've had you on the treadmill yet, but you can look forward to that one. Hope the lungs come back to you okay, and then see what's what... here's hoping it's better news going forwards. Any idea what brought the pneumonia on? I thought it was a Victorian slums, winter coal smog thing, not one for a glorious, relentlessly hot, dry summer? Here's to you, anyway.