Friday 14 August 2015

Silent Ischaemia

Ischemia, lack of blood supply, is fatal to tissues. It is also fatal to the soul if we deprive ourselves of the Blood of Christ and His grace. This came to me very strongly this week as I engaged in a battle with physiological ischemia...
Tuesday evening, August 4th, 2015 I was having pain in my shoulders, but none in my chest or jaw so I put it down to long-standing posture problems which have plagued me since purchasing a computer, and treated it with Anti-inflammatory Cream and Codeine phosphate 30mg. This gave some relief but no real resolution. Next morning (Wednesday) the pain was gone, but that evening it returned. I followed the same procedure as the day before, which provided the same result.

On Thursday the pain appeared quite early in the afternoon, and no relief was obtainable. By midnight it was quite intense so at 3am on the Friday morning I attended the Walk-in Centre at Peterlee. Having told them the family history of early deaths through heart attack they advised that I attend Accident and Emergency (ER) as Peterlee were unable to do ECG or Blood analysis.  I attended A&E at 6am and by 8am, with ECG abnormalities and rising Troponin levels (a heart enzyme released when the heart is damaged), I was being transferred to James Cook Cardiac Centre for care and treatment. That very day they placed three stents in the left coronary artery to the front of my heart with thrombolysis (break-up of clot) and hoped this would fix the problem. I was returned to Durham at 6am the following day (Saturday), with reassurance I would probably be discharged on the Sunday.

I was very eager to be discharged on the Sunday morning, but bitterly disappointed when Sunday came to discover Durham had no cardiology team member on duty to sanction the discharge, so I I had to resign myself to staying another night. This proved to be providential ( a grace from God) as on the Monday morning the Cardiac Registrar came to say that through the night the Telemetry heart tracing had shown ‘nasty ST irregularities’ during sleep(!) An echocardiogram and exercise ECG (treadmill test) were arranged on Wednesday which showed my heart was damaged and really struggling; that I was told not to leave the ward (or even go for a shower without informing nursing staff) in case I suddenly collapsed, so I was to be referred back to James Cook Hospital. At the same time, the telemetry ECG was removed, which left me feeling unsafe and vulnerable as I was now on a ward and not in Coronary Care. I asked to have my feeling of being safety-compromised recorded in my medical records since  it was removed after being I was told not to leave the ward or even go for a shower. Durham did their referral and on Thursday night I was taken back to James Cook, where next day a fourth stent was placed in the artery which circumvents the back of the heart. A post-procedure ECG looked fine so I was allowed to come home, where I am now, with strict inductions to stop smoking, reduce my salt intake and do gentle exercise.

I have had no chest pain at all throughout all of this, a condition described as ‘silent ischemia’ (once known as ‘Silent Myocardial Infarction’ or ‘silent heart attack’). Basically, one has a heart attack and does not know it.  I have been prescribed GTN spray in case I get chest pain -but will I?  I may simply infarct and arrest! A good reason to make sure I am at rights with God at every moment of every day, rather than giving in to sloth and the sharp tongue! A time to build prayer, patience, purity; charity to others and trust in God  -a good way for us all to live! 

Thank you, everyone for your prayers. Keep them up if you want to keep me on my feet!

Troponin –an enzyme released by heart muscle when it is damaged by ischemia (decrease in or loss of blood supply to the heart’s own muscle)

A way of gaining a live recoding ECG rhythms at a distance (patient is mobile and not present on the Coronary Care unit

A tracing of the electrical rhythms of the heart, showing the conduction of the electrical stimuli through the heart’s muscle (it is poor where muscle is damaged).

Use of a contrast medium to show the position and state of the Coronary Arteries

Placing of a stent in an artery blocked by atheroma (deposits in the artery)

A metal mesh-like tube placed inside a blocked artery to allow blood to flow to the heart muscle itself resume.


Following a cardiac event such as this one has little energy but a lot of anxiety as to when the next heart attack will occur. There is also some pain as the stents settle into place in the heart, so one is always on edge, added to which there is the possibility of kidney failure following use of the contrast medium for the angiogram (bloods are taken to check for this ten days after the angioplasty). Add to this the stress of having to alter one’s habits (reduce salt intake and quit smoking) and the anxiety only increases. It is said to reduce after some time, as patients learn to live with their condition. Roll on! In three weeks time I am to begin proper rehabilitation exercises led and supervised by health-care professionals in the next door village. Thanks be to God that at present Father Tully is saying the Masses here for me, allowing me to rest (and follow the gentle exercise plan!) and focus on life-style changes. But I must get back to offering Holy Mass soon; like a married man without his spouse the priest without his Mass is a man without his life.


  1. Prayers for your recovery, Father. May God preserve you. We so need priests like you.

  2. Hope things keep improving & that a long-term & permanent solution is found. Many of your friends are concerned about you & Fr Martin Wheaton remembered you in his Mass at the Little Sisters on Wednesday & Fr John O'Gorman & Canon Kearney as well as the sisters have you in their prayers. Of course Theresa & I join in with prayers & Masses ourselves. We need priests like you so get well soon

  3. Dear Fr. Get better soon. With prayers.

  4. Get better soon, Father. Prayers going up for you.

  5. God bless you and keep you.

  6. I will keep you in my prayers, Father. Please keep me in yours as I await an MRI scan of the prostate...

    1. Prayers going up for you David.
      God Bless.

    2. Father,

      You have my sympathy. I recognise so much of what you describe. But then you are much younger than me so you will be in my prayers.

      The important thing is keep going. There is work to be done so long as we can put one foot in front of the other. No standing down or retiring!

      It will, as they used to say, all be the same in a hundred years time, so lets try to make sure for us, its "up there".

  7. Isn't this blog a great help. As well as giving a good teaching of the faith it also enables us to pray for our family in Christ that we haven't even met. As always father you are in my prayers but I will also include you David Heath. God Bless

  8. God bless, Father, and I will keep you in my prayers, that you may soon return to good health.

  9. I've only just discovered your excellent blog, and will be very annoyed with you if you stop blogging because you're dead. Prayers, therefore, will be the order of day down here in Bournemouth.

  10. Fr. Dickson, very upset to hear about this new challenge. Your work is so important, and you do it with courage, dedication and clarity. May God bless you and all you encounter through this difficulty - certainly this is part of His design and mercy. My and my family's prayers are with you. An E. Orthodox Christian in the USA.

  11. I sincerely echo all of the above sentiments, prayers and well wishes Fr Gary. God bless you and may Mary our good mother protect you.

  12. God bless you, Father. Our Blessed Lady has you in her tender care. I hope to get to a local Tridentine Mass this afternoon, God willing, and will pray for you particularly.

  13. Praying for your recovery as well as for success of the second cataract operation. Thank you for all your sound teaching and encouragement in these difficult times.
    Mary Patricia

  14. Dear Father Dickson

    My prayers and best wishes for your full recovery. We DESPERATELY need priests like you - hens' teeth come to mind, so please take care and keep up the good work.


  15. Father Dixon, We prayed for you at St.Cuthbert's, Seaham this weekend. Father Hastie was very complimentary of you. Get well soon!!

  16. Praying for you father. Many good priests are suffering much in atonement for the sins of the world. There are so few that God has to "load up" on us more these days. Just keep doing what you are doing, living in the present moment being ready at any time to meet Our Lord.

  17. Thank you, everyone, for your prayers and undeserved affirmation.
    God Bless you.

  18. I am so sorry to learn of your heart problems and will certainly remember you Father in my prayers and do wish you well. (I have only just read your post as I only returned from a visit to Lourdes a few hours ago).

  19. Dear Fr Dickson,
    I shall pray a Holy Hour for the intention of your steady recovery , and at least ten years of good health ahead

  20. Dear Fr. Dickson, I am praying for you. (I've only just seen this post). I've been a cardiac care nurse for many years here in the States. A good thing we used to tell our patients is that for you, the shoulder pain is your angina, so if it happens again, seek help right away. Another thing, if you've had trouble stopping smoking, make yourself use an electronic cigarette with very low nicotine (or none). You can buy the liquid yourself. I was a long-time smoker, but bought an e-cigarette for a business trip, and haven't smoked regular cigarettes since. I just thought I'd offer these suggestions as an encouragement. No need to publish this.

    1. Thank you, Mary.
      I've published this because it will help others to recognise their pain symptoms if they are not typical chest pain -and to encourage others to stop smoking too!
      Many, many thanks for the prayers.
      God bless you and yours.


Please comment using a pseudonym, not as 'anonymous'.
If you challenge the Magisterium, please do so respectfully.
We reserve the right to delete from comments any inflammatory remarks.
If we do not reply to your comment it is through lack of time rather than interest.