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End of the road for Diltiazem…

Posted May 10 2010 12:00am

I wrote, over a year ago, about the problems I was having with Angitil (Diltiazem), a calcium channel blocker. Things have got far worse.

About 20 years ago, during an extremely stressful period in my life, I had a spell of sleepwalking. This has happened sporadically throughout my life – on one stand-out occasion, when I was about 20, I awoke to the sound of thunder, to realise it was the sound of me peeing into the oven!

Anyway, 20 years ago I woke up in bed, crunching something between my teeth. My first thought was Oh shit, it’s a spider (I lived in a particularly spidery building), but it wasn’t, I was crunching a drug capsule. I’d been at my meds in my sleep but, luckily, came to no harm.

Fast forward to last week, and at some point  on Monday night, I did it again – but this time I took two days worth of Angitil. Tuesday I didn’t feel great, Wednesday I felt horrible, with my heart feeling like it was sloshing about like a wet leather bag. A double dose of my potassium supplement (Angitil causes a deficiency and too little or too much can affect the heart), fixed that, but my bowels felt as if they were wrapped in barbed wire, a feeling that persisted until Friday when, apart from that, I was actually feeling pretty damn good.

Friday night – I hadn’t taken any Angitil since, obviously – my bowels were pain free, so I took my normal evening dose, not a little concerned that I might now be sensitised to them. The result was more  intestinal pain but, worse than that, I felt as I often feel – appallingly ill.

Still, I persevered until Sunday evening, when I thought bugger it, I’ve had enough. And stopped taking them. The bowel pain faded over the next few hours, and again I began to feel pretty good. I also slept like a baby that night.

Monday morning I was dog tired, but by mid morning that had passed and, for a miracle, I had loads of energy – something I’ve not been able to say for about 25 years. I cleaned the kitchen, washed all the dishes that had accumulated last week when I was out of it, made a pan or rather good lentil soup, spiked with cumin and paprika, and generally tidied the place up. The problem was that this feeling of being energised lasted until about three this morning, which meant I didn’t get much sleep, and today I’m feeling rough, but not so rough that this isn’t my fourth blog post today.

And my eternal nausea has gone, likewise my permanent headache is much reduced, so hopefully I might see the back of that, too.

I’ve also, since Sunday night, been peeing for Britain, and since Sunday morning I’ve lost 4lb – presumably fluid, as my legs aren’t swelling nearly as much.

So, for the past decade and a half, just how much has Diltiazem contributed to my deteriorating health?

Today, I feel unwell – that’s not going to change, there’s too much else wrong for one factor to cause a major change – but I feel alert, I’m typing accurately and quickly, always a good sign, and I’ve made a small but significant modification to my mobility scooter. My vision is clearer, too.

My pulse is in the mid to high eighties – not at all unusual  for me – but what is unusual is that I’m not aware of it, nor have I had any severe palpitations, which have been a feature for many years. My O2 sats are a comfortable 94% (a spot check like that would usually come up with about 91-92%). And yes, I know I said spot checks don’t mean much, but as a basis for comparison – spot check against spot check – I think it’s significant..

There’s a downside, of course. Angitil was prescribed because I was subject to bouts of angina, for no apparent reason (not that anyone was bothered about finding a reason**), and it’s also beneficial in COPD – the relaxing of then vascular smooth muscle being replicated in the bronchi. I have not, however, even though it’s well out of my system now, noticed any deterioration in my breathing.

**In 1995 I was hauled off to hospital with a suspected coronary. After an angiogram many months later showed my plumbing was pristine, it was written off as angina***. However, it was certainly not angina I had experienced – it was far worse – and my  GP thought so too as soon as he arrived. Afterwards, it took me over six months to recover and get back to normal – angina sure as hell doesn’t do that. As far as I’m concerned, whatever the cause, it was a coronary event of some sort.

***When I was much more active, I was prone to spasm angina caused, I was told, by low blood oxygen levels (caused by my respiratory problems), which meant my heart was unable to cope, at times, with, say, the demands backpacking.

So I’m on the lookout for an angina attack, but so far so good. I do have a lot of chest pain, but nothing out of the ordinary and, so far, stopping Angitil has been a good move. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out over the next few weeks.

If I suddenly stop posting, well, you’ll know it didn’t work out too well. Personally, though, I’m pretty confident.

One last thought. Normally, I’d wake at 06.00, pee and take my meds, then go back to bed for an hour or two. At 06.00 most days I’d feel absolutely fine (for a given value of fine, you understand). By the time I got up I’d feel like hammered shit, and that’s been the pattern for over a decade.

Now, though I feel less than sparkling – I’m still taking some pretty potent drugs, each with its own baggage – I feel reasonably OK. Hopefully, that’s something I can build on.

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