The beginning of the end for Tony Hornet
A high percentage of Canadians do not reach the unofficial retirement age of 65 as they succumb to a variety of health issues or due to ageism they are terminated. I suppose 11 years at CRAP and 19 at Up Up and Away Toronto took their toll on me. Too many heart pounding big deals, too many late nights and not enough sleep were taking a silent toll on me.
About three years into working at Up Up and Away Toronto I recall having a leisurely conversation with a colleague close to Christmas time. My heart stopped for second, then for a few seconds sped up but soon went back to its normal rhythm. Needless to say this was a disconcerting. It began to happen more frequently so I asked my GP about it and he seemed to brush it off as no big deal. According to my doctor the condition was called atrial fibrillation and many of his patients had it. If the heart did not start beating normally, he said very nonchalantly that I should go to “Emergency” and they would put me out and then I would undergo a cardioversion by way of an electric shock which would cause my heart to return to its normal sinus rhythm. A lack of compassion so common amongst physicians.
Well one morning about 3.a.m.my heart started beating wildly. It was my first full blown atrial fibrillation attack, so I hopped in a taxi and headed to Emergency. After about 6 hours of this wild cardiac ride they were about ready to put me out and give my heart a blast of electricity but just as soon as the episode started it then ended without the need for electricity. Being absent from work I had to spill the beans about this condition to Sally Self.
I suffered from atrial fibrillation for 14 years. Despite some awful drugs being offered to me the attacks worsened to the point they were at least twice a week and would last for 7-8 hours. This was extremely bothersome if the episode spanned into working hours and often it did. But I kept it quiet except for advising Sally and really suffered terribly. Atrial fibrillation may also have side effects of anxiety, depression and cognitive impairment.
The last drug I tried was Amiodarone which was a rate control drug. It was highly effective but highly toxic and dangerous. I was also taking Eliquis a mega blood thinner that made me a borderline hemophiliac. Those with atrial fibrillation are 4-5 times more likely to suffer from strokes due to clotting because of the stopping and starting of the heart. Clots blocking the flow of blood in the brain are the cause of strokes. Blood thinners are usually prescribed to avoid deadly or debilitating strokes.
I had an awful time converting to amiodarone as your system had to be clear of cardiac drugs for two weeks and the dosage of amiodarone required a month or so before being topped up to a full dose. So for 6 weeks my heart was acting up. It was unbearable. Upon retrospection I should have gone on short term disability during this extremely uncomfortable and challenging time.
There is a medical procedure called a cardiac ablation where the rogue heart tissue causing the arrhythmia are burnt off. Why my cardiologists failed to tell me was this procedure was relatively safe and extraordinarily successful was a puzzle to me until I saw an Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan policy urging cardiologists to pump out the drugs as a cardiac ablation costs approximately $60.000.
I think the breaking point was a possible mini-stroke I had. I was shaving and my shaving hand was not responding to what I wanted it to do. As well I had difficulty combing my hair. I phoned 911 and an ambulance transported me to Emergency. Was it a mini stroke? The neurologist ordered an MRI and no damage was found. Neither was there any firm medical pronouncement as to whether a mini stroke had occurred. Suffering the gnawing fear that a severe stroke was a possibility I visited my electro physiologist, the cardiac speciality physician that performs cardiac ablations, and asked for a cardiac ablation.
Several months later I had the cardiac ablation and the procedure lasted for 4 hours and over 100 burns were made to my heart. I still had to remain on the amiodarone for six more months. I am happy to say the cardiac ablation worked. On rare instances I get a few seconds of irregular heart beats. Unfortunately, research is surfacing showing that a cardiac ablation, because it is blasting heart tissue, may create “debris” that floats up in the blood to the brain causing brain lesions and cognitive impairment.
I must say sitting at my desk at Up Up and Away Toronto I began to think the stressful work I did was bad for my health. I felt a bit like a sitting duck waiting for a fatal shotgun blast. And the workplace stress was gaining in intensity.
After all these years no cardiologist or medical practitioner, save the neurologist seeing me after the mini stroke, ever asked me how I was feeling psychologically despite the fact there was unmistakable evidence that atrial fibrillation significantly increases the risk of anxiety, depression and cognitive impairment. I was feeling that the medical establishment had failed me. Speaking with friends in the United States cardiac ablations were far more common there than in Canada. When they heard I waited for 14 years to have one they were in disbelief. For them their wait had been weeks.
I explained to the neurologist following up on me after the possible mini stroke the stressful situation I was working in and if it was dangerous to me. The anxiety about another mini stroke induced by stress was beginning to gnaw at me. His response seeing my anxiety was that it was time to see a psychiatrist. Of course, hearing the word” psychiatrist” initially flipped me out but after a moment of reflection I accepted his referral to a hospital psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Ellen Wong.
I needed a month to recover from my cardiac ablation so had to go on short term disability. Boy I had a nasty “caseworker” from our short-term disability administrator, Happy Insurance Company. Aggressive in tone and attitude. My electro physiologist made the mistake of writing to Happy Insurance Company stating “if possible” Tony should have one month to recover. “If possible” meant two weeks to that bastard of an insurance company caseworker. Neither did Sally Self or our Human Resources Department give me any support to give me the month I required to heal despite a request I made for their intervention. At this point I was beginning to take matters personally. The apathy and lack of concern by Up Up and Away Toronto and Sally Self for my health was highly offensive.
To top things off shortly after returning to work from the cardiac ablation I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor or ET as it is known. What ET does is make you shaky. There is surgery but only for the worst cases. So yet more medication to take. The neurologist who diagnosed the ET found evidence of microangiopathic disease on the brain. This can lead to stroke and is an early maker for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Having to deal with all these medical issues in a toxic workplace was becoming increasingly difficult.