I almost died in November 2023.



NSTEMI, secondary myocardiac infection and heart failure were in my medical documentation. It was scary, and here’s how it happened.

Two Fridays ago, I started coughing. It was just a light one – dont all those scary stuff begin with seemingly mild or light situations, but progressively turned darker? I thought it was okay, just the regular cough and cold, so I decided to self-medicate with natural healing supplements for the cold and cough.

There was no phlegm yet, so I thought it was truly mild.

The next Friday, 7 days later, it felt worse, and I felt that it was a little hard to breathe, so my wife told me to contact a doctor online, using Doctor Anywhere. I called once, and there was no one answering. I was struggling to breathe as I was coughing which doesnt seem to allow me to catch my breath. Finally, after about 3 rounds of trying to call a doctor in the Doctors Anywhere platform, a doctor picked my call, and we had the online medical consultation.

He saw me coughing, and prescribed some antibiotics and medicine to suppress the cough. It was 9 pm, and the meds was delivered at around 10.30 pm (they’re really efficient), and I quickly took the meds so that i can recover faster.

The night itself, my cough got waaaaaaay worse.

I couldnt sleep, and I got a headache from the cough. I started to develop phlegm, and it was bloody pink when expelled, likely because I coughed so much that I abrased my throat. Ugh. It was much better when my upper body was upright and inclined back or front, so I sat or lay like that most of the day.

Cancelled all my Friday and Saturday patients, and thought to let the medicine do its magic over the weekend.

Wrong.

Sunday, wifey and kids went out, and it just got so hard to breathe. Wifey recommended me to go to the hospital, and I thought it’s an easy one, so I just took my bag, just one additional underwear, as I should be warded for one night at most and discharging the next day.

Oh…how wrong I was.

When I reached the hospital, they asked if I had difficulty breathing, and when I said yes, they sat me on a wheelchair and accelerated my registration, and in less than 3 minutes, I was wheeled to the resting bay at the back of the accident and emergency department. They quickly took my blood, to test, and within 30 minutes they came back and told me that they are calling the cardiologist.

Here I am, I’m like WHAT?

They asked me if I had any specific cardio in mind, I told them to just pick from my insurance panel, which is AIA. Within 30 minutes, my cardio arrived and he told me that my blood tests showed that there is some heart enzymes in there, indicative of heart attack or failure.

Another time, I’m like…WHATTTT?

Wow, that’s new for me. So this was how a heart attack or heart failure feel like – I didnt feel much pain like physical pain, but the key experience was breathlessness and the difficulty to catch my breath. Frustratingly, the SPO2 (oxygen levels in my blood) consistently scored higher than 96%, which was pretty good.

They sent me to the cardio ward, which was ward 11 and my room was room 14.

Mount Elizabeth Novena hospital has very nice rooms, and great hospitality staff. Lots of food options too. I would get an iPad to order my food, and typically main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) has at least 10 options, including lobster and slow braised beef or lamb shank, with great sides and soups. I was spoiled for food.

But of course, those who consolation.

What was scary was when I did the initial 2D echo and heart CT scan, my heart seem to show a weird sign, something similar to cardiac amyloid. When I googled it, my goodness, that is a death sentence – most individuals die within 2-5 years of getting cardiac amyloid. In cases of amyloid, what happens is that the heart muscle hardens as a result of protein deposits, and my cardio assured me that nowadays there is a lot more treatments so my life can be longer than 2-5 years.

It didnt help when my heart showed that it was functioning at 37%.

Oh my.

Until my cardio told me that most people function at 55% so it’s not too bad, though it’s not good too.

But to be safe, he scheduled me for a heart MRI on day 3 of my hospitalization. Lol, and I thought it’d be just one night. The heart MRI was hard, it wasnt like the time when I did my shoulder MRI, where it was very hot. This time, I had to do a series of breath holding every 2+ minutes…for a whole hour.

The entire hour of heart MRI felt like I was undergoing breath holding training during my younger years of learning to swim, where I had to submerge my head underwater, and hold my breath and count. Literally the same experience, and it was tiring. After some time, I could get the hang of the process: hold breath, count, release, hold breath etc.

I didnt get the MRI results back on the same day I did it, so I had to go 1 day without seeing or hearing from my cardio. With the terms such as NSTEMI (non S-T elevated myocardiac infarction) and heart failure as well as 37% heart function and possible amyloid which was a death sentence…

…I sat in much silence, thinking and talking to God.

It was weird – I felt at peace, and I remember feeling peaceful. I told God that I love Him, and He can take me anytime, though I’d like to be on earth a little while longer, till I’m 100, to spend time with my wife and kids and family. But His will was more important, so if He wants me to go home to heaven, I told him that I’m okay and ready.

I didnt feel that much worry or burden or anxiety. Okay, some anxiety, but it’s not like heavy. I still slept well, and I ate very well, haha.

I had a couple of conversations with my wife about what to do with the life insurance money if I do pass on soon, and I thank God and Hendri for helping me sort out my medical and health insurances such that I didnt have to think about coverage and that even if I died, my family would have some money enough for their generation.

On the 4th day, the doctor came in with the heart MRI results. He apologized for not coming in on 3rd day, as there was no point since there was no MRI results yet – good news is that it ISNT heart amyloid, but some abnormalities likely due to the severe chest infection (damn you rhinovirus) and untreated high blood pressure.

Wow, just those two? Apparently when combined, they were a dangerous duo.

He recommended me to stay one more night, so he could continue to monitor my heart through cardiac telemetry (since day 1) and do one more round of blood test to see how my body is responding to the heart, blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Did I mention that they also gave me medicine to get rid of water in my body? Ugh, the urge to pee was so strong!

Nevertheless, good news was that I didnt have the death-sentencing-heart-amyloid, but I have to start being on long term medication for my heart, blood pressure and cholesterol. And I need to lose weight. He said that losing weight is the beginning of recovery, and patients who lose weight will have their BP drop in tandem too.

And that intermittent fasting is a good and proven way to manage weight.

On the 5th day, as I discharged from the hospital, I recall thinking to myself – it’s surreal. Felt as though I was going to die, yet I was at peace, and it reminds me yet again, that I cannot waste my time on earth. Life is both fragile and short, so I (and you) cannot waste time on stuff that doesnt make sense.



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