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Wednesday 22 March 2023

Apologising like A British Gentleman & Passing Out in the Bathroom: Phil Collard (Part 2)

When I wrote my first guest-blog for this site, 'It’s Enjoyment, Jim, But Not As I Know It', I hinted that it may be part one of a two-parter. 

Said blog was, in no small part, about how my life had been turned upside down by a sudden and mysterious illness, which left me breathless at the merest hint of physical movement (even brushing my teeth) - and when I wrote it, I genuinely didn’t know what was wrong with me or whether I was ever going to recover. 

I was, to put it bluntly, very scared. 

As it happens, with that blog having been published on 31st August, I was just a few days away from finding out exactly what was wrong with me. 

Sat in the house, at about 10pm, I decided to call it a day and head upstairs to brush my teeth before going to bed. The next thing I knew, I was waking up on the bathroom floor, half an hour later, staring at the bottom of the bath. 

I must have dragged myself up the stairs only to pass-out with the exertion. 

I very nearly brushed it off as 'one of those things' but, as it happens, it was a rare evening where the rest of the family were out, and I was alone... and having no-one else around added a different dimension to the whole episode. After about half-an-hour deliberating, I decided to call 999 (apologising to the operator in true British style, of course, for the unnecessary inconvenience I was causing!). 

The operator took the view that I wasn’t causing an unnecessary inconvenience - and arranged for me to be rushed to hospital.

Life was about to get exciting.. and terrifying. 

I was discharged the next day - seemingly okay - but, 24 hours later, a phone call from my GP… my panicked GP… suggested that I wasn’t okay at all. It turns out that the results of one of the tests they’d run in A&E (but which were expected to be fine - hence them discharging me) showed that I was pretty much as close to death as I could get, without actually BEING dead. 

I needed to get to hospital as soon as possible - no time to pass go… and no time to collect my £200. 

It turns out I had a 'severe saddle pulmonary embolism' (that’s a clot in both both lungs to you and me), likely brought on by Covid. Well that would explain my breathlessness over the previous few weeks!

The doctor was pretty clear that I had been lucky to regain consciousness, having reached that point of passing out a few days before... and that, had I not contacted 999 when I did, the outcome might well have been... well... you know. 

I’m not going to leave out the bit where I tell you how frightened I was – searching Google in the dead of night, from my hospital bed, all alone, only seemed to confirm that these were, in fact, the last days of Phil Collard.

There were tears.

When I finally got to seek property medical guidance – from, you know, an actual doctor doing his morning rounds, rather than Dr Google, he confirmed that, since they’d identified what was wrong with me in time, my prognosis was for a full recovery… and, after a few days under observation in hospital, just to be safe, I was going home (albeit with a bag full of blood-thinning medication and a fear of cutting myself shaving, lest I bleed to death!) 

My instructions were simple (thank goodness - I’m a simple man!); limit movement for the next few weeks. I could then start doing short walks (a few minutes at a time). After another few weeks, I could START to do other stuff, like riding my bike (again, for a few minutes at a time). 
The key was to gradually increase the amount of time I was exercising, and the intensity of that exercise, such that I never find my limit, if that makes sense - I needed to avoid, at all costs, getting breathless. 

It was not a nice journey to go on, but I followed the instructions TO THE LETTER and, after a couple of months, was very gently attempting my usual “daily” 20-mile cycling routes. 

So much fitness had been lost that, if it weren’t for how grateful I was just to be alive and cycling, I might have started to feel a bit depressed… but I plugged on. 

A little while later and I went out for a 100km ride - again taking it steady. My breathing and heart-rate were steady throughout, which was a great sign. 

Roll forwards to where we find ourselves now and I’m back to averaging c120 cycled miles per week and a couple of miles swimming. I’ve done a few more 100km rides, too, and I’m looking at a return to my 'standard' 200km rides in the not-too-distant future. 

In fact, I’m in Majorca as I type this blog - having brought my oldest lad away for a few days cycling in what very much appears to be paradise (who knew that EasyJet flew to paradise!) 
And, yesterday, we cycled a little over 60 miles with around 6,800 feet of climbing (that’s around 100km with 2,100 metres of climbing for you metric types)… including the famous climb of Sa Calobra (one of the 'list' of climbs I’ve always wanted to do). 

In fitness terms, yesterday’s ride showed me that I’m far from fully-recovered - and the reality is that I’m probably a few months away from being able to say that… coming back from Covid and a life-threatening embolism is, funnily enough, not a five minute thing. 

BUT - I still completed a ride which many cyclists couldn’t do at all - so I take huge pride in that… plus, of course, I’m alive and well enough to do it… and for that I’m hugely grateful. 

If you'll permit me a moment of mushiness, I’ve the NHS to thank for being alive - and my wife and boys to thank for their support whilst I’ve been recuperating… I genuinely couldn’t have done it without the physical and emotional support I’ve had. 

What’s next? I don’t know, to be honest. I have a review of my blood-thinner medication next month (to decide whether I can stop taking them)… and I think they’ll run a heart scan or two (to make sure that the whole episode didn’t damage my heart)… but, for now, I’m planning on enjoying the ability to exercise - an ability I took for granted before July last year, no doubt. 

And if you take anything at all away from reading this, I hope it’s that YOU shouldn’t take exercising for granted, either - enjoy, cherish and celebrate what you fit bunch of people are able to do! 

To finish off, here’s some photos of our Majorca adventure!

... Phil Collard

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