But very soon and very unexpectedly, things were suddenly brought to a head, when Paul experienced something of a health scare.
He had been feeling rather out of sorts for some time, feeling extremely tired and run down. At first he thought he had just picked up some unpleasant virus. However one evening when he returned home from work he looked thoroughly done in, having experienced yet another very stressful day at the office, followed by a long journey home. He said he felt dreadful and complained of a slight dizziness, and a strange fluttering sensation in his chest.
I took one look at him and alarm bells started to ring. I took his pulse and found it to be very erratic. Following a hastily organised visit to our local doctor’s surgery, an urgent hospital appointment was organised for the following morning.
Soon Paul was diagnosed as having Atrial Fibrillation, a permanently irregular heartbeat. The doctor explained the option of a fairly straight-forward procedure called Cardioversion which could possibly re-programme the heart back into a regular rhythm. It involved the patient being given a general anaesthetic and then the heart is stopped from beating by administering an electric shock (as used when trying to resuscitate a patient). The heart is then given another shock – the hope being that with this “reboot” the heart will re-start and continue beating in regular synus rhythm.
However first Paul needed to undergo a lengthy period of Warfarin anticoagulent treatment, in order to sufficiently thin the blood. This is because while the heart is not pumping effectively, stale blood can pool in the chambers, risking the formation of a clot which could possibly break loose, risking a thrombosis or a stroke.
In the beginning , Paul being Paul, attempted to continue his normal routine of getting up at the crack of dawn and going to work, but soon found that during the day he got easily exhausted and often out of breath, especially when climbing stairs. Finally he was forced to accept his limitations, in the short term at least, and our doctor signed him off from work for a couple of months. When eventually the Cardioversion procedure could took place, mercifully it all went well resulting in a normal steady heartbeat.
However, as you may imagine, this difficult experience had hit Paul very hard. He had always seemed to be so well, fit and strong, a 6ft 3in tall ex-rugby player. This setback had left him reeling, feeling vulnerable, both physically and psychologically.
Indeed this had been a worrying time for us all, it was as if our life had been put on a temporary hold. We were convinced that stress at work had triggered Paul’s heart problem and Paul himself came to the decision that he did not want to continue his career in Engineering. It just wasn’t for him. We felt greatly unsettled and we began to take stock and to re-evaluate our lifestyle and consider making major life changes.
We soon realised that we needed to work towards creating a completely new life for ourselves. Perhaps the health problem had been a signal that we should start living out our dreams right now, instead of leaving them stored indefinitely on the shelf.
Paul and I talked and talked, and finally we convinced ourselves that we should take charge of our destiny and make a new start in Italy.
* photo by Ellipsis-Imagery Chris OBrien