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Tim explains how his wife helped him to overcome his manly reluctance to see his doctor – twice – and saved his life into the bargain.
My blood pressure had probaby been rising for quite a while before I noticed that something was wrong. But then, in January 2004, I started to have unusual headaches – they were behind the ears and round the nape of the neck. Then I started to experience a loss of vision and found that I was struggling to sleep at night because I could hear the sound of my heart pounding in my head.
Wife knows best
My wife was very concerned and wanted me to see my doctor, which was the last thing I wanted to do. However, when a work colleague had to bring me home from the office because I was too ill to drive, she wouldn’t take no for an answer and I found myself at my doctor’s surgery.
Because high blood pressure normally has no symptoms, my doctor diagnosed that I had a migraine and told me to go home to sleep it off. But my symptoms continued, off and on, for the next few weeks.
Afterwards my wife told me she was sure there was something, despite my best efforts to hide it from her, she knew that I was still having the headaches and she could actually see my veins pulsing in time with my heartbeat. She continued to “encourage” me to see my doctor and, much to her relief, I eventually gave in.
This time my doctor checked my blood pressure and noted that it was somewhat higher than he might have expected. Over the next couple of weeks my blood pressure was found to be fluctuating – but on a very upward trend!
At this point I was given a medicine to help lower my blood pressure. But it appeared to have no effect at all. Weekly checks at the surgery showed that, even though the dosage was being constantly increased, the rise in my blood pressure was outpacing it.
Soon my blood pressure had reached 200/130mmHg and my doctor decided that “more radical” action was needed. That evening I saw a specialist and it was 220/143mmHg. That did it: I was sent straight to hospital.
Eight days later I emerged from hospital clutching a collection of new and different medicines and a diagnosis of “malignant” (or accelerated) hypertension. [It is a very rare form of extremely high blood pressure that requires hospital treatment (but has nothing to do with cancer at all).]
It took a few months – perhaps even a year or so, for my body to completely settle back down. I can definitely identify with people whose blood pressure medicines occasionally cause side-effects – it has certainly happened to me. However, these diminished for me as time went on.
Because my blood pressure became excessively high, I have been investigated for other associated problems – particularly regarding my eyesight. But I have been fortunate; my eyes are completely normal.
Older and much wiser
Two years on, things are back pretty much as they were. However, I am a little older and much wiser: I cycle more than before and I watch my health. I also pass this advice on to my work mates and even take my clinically validated home blood pressure monitor along so they can check themselves. In fact a colleague discovered that they too had high blood pressure, and is being successfully treated.
I’ll leave the last words to my wife: “My advice to any couples out there is if you spot worrying little changes, don’t leave it, get it checked out!”