Sandy's Garden ... I'm Back

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A number of years ago, I was standing in one of the halls in Polmont Young Offenders Institution.

Tthe former halls, I should say, before the reconstructions of the facility … when a happy cry rang out. “I’m back!” A thrill of welcome greeted this message. Cheers mingled with applause and shouts of, “Welcome home, Jimbo!”.

For some reason, I didn’t feel inclined to join in the general celebration of the return to confinement of a young man who, in my terms, was wasting his one-and-only-life.

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I am not going to explain why I was in Polmont YOI on that auspicious occasion. I shall, however, explain my abrupt disappearance from my familiar haunts for the last couple of weeks, where I have been, why I have been there and what has happened to me.

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson has suffered a serious heart attackFalkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson has suffered a serious heart attack
Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson has suffered a serious heart attack

In simple, old-fashioned language, I have had a serious heart attack.

Two weeks ago a gust of wind literally took my breath away. I had been having breathing problems throughout the summer and autumn and was attending an out-patients’ clinic in the Cardiology Department of the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert as well as being on a cocktail of drugs. I knew that I was far from well. But the shock of suddenly being unable to draw breath is an experience I would not wish on anyone.

Access to a relieving drug, to an emergency doctor, to an ambulance, to the Accident and Emergency Department, to the Acute Assessment Unit and to the Intensive Care Unit in the Cardiology Department followed in a commendably rapid sequence.

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I thought, at the time, that I was passably aware of what was happening to me; now, I am not so sure. My recollection of events is very vague, particularly my recall of what happened day-on-day. What is crystal clear in my mind is that I was very well cared for.

The doctors who examined and explained, the senior nursing staff who tended and enlightened, the students who chatted and cheered, the housekeeping staff who worried about my lack of appetite ... my drugs regime led to anything I put into my mouth turning to cardboard … and the entire alphabet of staff, from Alec to Zoe, who stuck needles into me to ascertain what was going on in there - everyone was kindness personified, doing everything in their power to aid my recovery, a process which required twelve day of intensive care before I was judged well enough to be allowed home.

And no, although I was of necessity confined, I did not feel imprisoned. The door of Room 9 was ever-open; I enjoyed as much freedom of choice as was possible in my circumstances. But now I must come to terms with my new status; I cannot do some things which were part of my everyday life just two weeks ago – perhaps I mean that I must not do some things which were part of my normal life.

I must neither stop altogether nor pretend that nothing has happened. Yes, I’m back; but I must take better care of my heart than I have done in the past. I owe it to myself and to a lot of people who rescued me. Thank you, one and all!

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