How it feels to… survive heart surgery, by novelist Mark Haddon



Earlier this year, I found myself in a bed in the cardiology department at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, wired up to a heart monitor, waiting for a double heart bypass. I’m 56, I’ve been a vegetarian for decades and I like few things more than running for two hours through unpeopled countryside, so I wasn’t expecting this kind of adventure for 20 years at least. I now realise that I’m a very lucky man. I’d experienced no chest pain or breathlessness, and if it weren’t for a CT scan showing severely narrowed coronary arteries, I would sooner or later have collapsed on a remote section of the Thames footpath.

I was assigned to the surgeon Mr Farid and his team. As the days ticked by I waited for a slot in his timetable so I could have my sternum cut from top to bottom with a circular saw and my chest cranked open. For the sake of my sanity, and that of my wife, Sos, and our teenage sons, I had to remind myself that this was a common operation and that the risk was minimal. All being well, I would, eventually, be fitter than I was three years ago.


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