Monday, September 17, 2012

Facing the dangers of high blood pressure (BP)

 By Gershom Ndhlovu

Gershom Ndhlovu
In the year 2000, I was transferred from my base in Ndola where I had worked for just over four years back to Lusaka. My family remained on the Copperbelt while I went to take up my new appointment.

It was while there that one day a team of Rotarians came to my place of work to conduct some medical check-ups.
A Rotarian of Indian origin took my blood pressure. He looked at me and said my Blood Pressure (BP) was very high. As far I was concerned, he was talking to himself because it did not register to me what he meant and especially that he did not mention any thing I should do to control it or to seek further medical advice from a registered clinic.
As far I was concerned, life continued as usual—imbibing the lagers and cheap Zimbabwean spirits of Bols and Chateau and eating michopo in the form of goat meat, T-Bone  and fish roasted at pubs and added to that, the home made stews—and of course other unhealthy life styles.
One day, on my way to Ndola to see my family, I felt very uncomfortable on the bus with one side of my head getting swollen. Because of some pain emanating from the ear, I thought I had an infection in the ear. The following day, my wife suggested we go to the Ndola Central Hospital where she worked as a nurse.
When it was my turn to be examined by the nurse on duty, she, as a matter of routine, took my Blood Pressure. The woman looked at me wide-eyed and took the reading again. Without saying anything, the nurse shot off the room and came tagging a doctor. At this time, it still did not register to me how serious the problem was.
The doctor, straight away, recommended that I be given a bed. At that point, the problem of the ear was all but forgotten. I was taken for ECG (Electrocardiogram) and other related stuff. I spent four days in the Ndola Central Hospital, but that was the beginning of a very long journey with my BP treatment and admissions to hospitals.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a medical test that detects cardiac (heart) abnormalities by measuring the electrical activity generated by the heart it contracts. The ECG can help diagnose a range of condition including heart arrhythmiasheart enlargement, heart inflammation (pericarditis or myocarditis) and coronary heart disease.
Fast forward to 2009, living in a European country. One day I went to see my doctor for some minor problem I had. Fortunately or unfortunately, my usual doctor was not there and I was seen by another one who, again as a matter of routine, took my BP. While measuring it, she put the stethoscope on my chest and listened intently. She said: “You have a heart murmer.”
Again, I had no idea what that meant but she explained in simple language saying that as the heart pumped blood away from the heart, some of it was going back into the heart. She referred me to the hospital for a thorough examination. But I was assured that although there would be need for surgery in future, they would be monitoring me and required me to go for an annual check up.
I did not have any notable problems until towards the end of 2010 when I started experiencing pain in the chest, arms and legs particularly after a strenuous chore. This was increasingly getting debilitating almost knocking me out.
One day, after one of these attacks, I decided to go to the hospital. The doctors decided that I should undergo an angiogram (X-ray test that uses a special dye and camera to take pictures of the blood flow in an artery or a vein) to determine if there were any blockages in my coronary arteries. The doctors’ fears were confirmed. One of my arteries had narrowed. But because at that time it had been decided that I need heart surgery because of an anomaly in my heart valves that allowed blood back into the heart, the narrowing would be dealt with at the same time as the heart surgery on a date that had not even set.
Two weeks after the angiogram, i had an emergency. I set out to travel out of town to the university where I was studying for classes, on the way to the bus stop I just felt this pain I had never felt before. I dragged myself back home. I recovered quite alright but later in the evening I experienced the same pain. At that time I was taking some pain killers that had been left over by my daughter but ran out.
I had to go to the surgery the next day to go and get my own pain killers. As luck would have it, I saw the doctor who had diagnosed my heart murmur a couple of years earlier. She quickly ordered an ECG. Because of the ECG result and my presentation of the problem, she called an ambulance which fetched me from the surgery.
At the hospital, they did further tests and they determined that I needed an angioplasty or a stent, to widen the narrowing artery. I spent three days in the hospital. From that time to date, I have not felt that pain again.
Nevertheless, the medical authorities now had to scramble to find a date for my open heart surgery. This came six months later in May 2011. I had been given three choices of what they were going to do with my valve—replace it with an organic one, i.e. from a pig or sheep, replace it with a mechanical one or just repair my natural one. Fortunately for me, my natural one was in reparable state which they did.
The underside to all this is that I have to be on constant medication such as aspirin to “thin” blood and four other types tablets to control blood pressure. I also have to bear the 30 cm scar on my chest where I was opened up for heart surgery to take place.
The recovery process is a story for another day but in writing all this, it is my wish that Zambians should take issues of high blood pressure.

Based in the United Kingdom, Gershom Ndhlovu is a veteran Zambian journalist, a co-host on Crossfire Blogradio (UK) and former Zambia Daily Mail Editor.PYM


Field Shachizanda said...

This trend of taking pain killers anyhow or when ever some one is having a headache should stop.This has led to most people just colapsing and die,pain killers will kill the pain but the problem of pressure in the veins will continue.
I have seen someone who is persived to be strong just collapses and dies later on just to discover that the blood pressure was high.Benze kuyenda nayo BP,
I agree with the writer that we should take the issues of blood pressure seriously.We should also go back to our normal traditional way of eating and reduce on High fatty food known as junk foods.To much Cholestro will destroy your heart.
Come on Zambians dont ukuichaila,just go for checkup on issues of BP.
One day i had problems with my eyes until the Doctor told me your Blood pressure was high.Not until it was controlled than i had poor eye sight and i almost was told to use spectacles,

Emmanuel Mulenga said...

Hey Meluse....the story is extremely relevant to all of us and how we tend to ignore the so called "small Illneses." BP is bad...Its bad because its a silent killer. While there are calls to make HIV testing mandatory, I would rather they Made BP testing compulsory before many people end up dropping dead... what more with the un-healthy lifestyles peaple lead!!!

Emmanuel Mulenga said...

And I think this notion of only associating BP with the rich peopel should be done away with... beacuse the poor think that they are exempted from having BP and that it can't affect them.. ... but in the process they are dying... there is need for a more serious and vigorous sensitization campaign.

Boyd said...

I am touched by this story. It just shows how much less importance we attach to sertious issues like BP. Most of us tend to ignore these tests which actually only lasts a few minutes. I the pray that the author willl remain strong and courageous.

Meluse Kapatamoyo said...

It's a lesson to all of us to think how best we can take care of our health. We do take a lot for granted. Poor diet and lack of exercises are responsible for most of these diseases we are dealing with.

Meluse Kapatamoyo said...

You are very right. It's a disease for the rich we call it so when we see the signs we ignore them until too late. I hope this article opens the minds of people who think otherwise so we can challenge ourselves with the truth.

Meluse Kapatamoyo said...

Thanks for sharing. Blood Pressure is clearly responsible for many of the diseases around but we take it so lightly. And again, there is the issue of self medicating. Thinking you are suffering from this specific condition when the real condition is something else which is even more serious. We are conditioned not to assume the worst so we convince ourselves its nothing serious. This article challenged me when i first read it.

Naresh Kumar Bhutani said...

There are different remedy and mantra that can control the high blood pressure. With in three months high bp problem will be over.