I was aware that beta-blockers were abused by athletes who sought to make performance improvements and as such they are a banned substance. However, in my naivety, I didn't appreciate they are only of benefit to the likes of archers, golfers, marksmen and those that require a steady hand when the going gets tense. I wasn't prepared for the degree of cardiac slow down I experienced with such a high dose of Sotalol.
"It's clear I am going to have some adjustment to make, but that's fine as it's only short-term because once everyone realises this is just a temporary glitch then the Cardiologist will be advising me to stop them".
Yep, guaranteed, that is exactly how this will play out. I was becoming fixated on not allowing the medication to interfere with any aspect of my fitness, I was just going to have to push harder to break through the restrictions. I just need to remain focused on my goal, I'm sure half of these heart problems are misdiagnosed just like mine. Exercise is my life, I will not be stopped from doing what I love.
I recall the phone ringing very clearly. I was sat in the kitchen and the radio was on in the background. I always like to have some music in the background, life needs a theme tune. I thought mum would answer it, then recalled she'd popped out so jumped up to get it. Always seemed pointless me answering it, it was never for me, I spoke to all my friends face to face. I just take a messages for mum.
"Hello, is that Nick?" enquired the voice.
"Erm, yeah, speaking..." I replied, a bit confused as to who was phoning for me.
"Is your mum in Nick?" the lady enquired. Ah so it is for mum!
"No, sorry she's popped out, can I take a message?".
"Nick, it's the Sister from Southampton General. I'm phoning as requested with an update on Aaron. Will your mum be long?"
"I've really no idea, sorry, but it's fine you can tell me and I'll let her know when she gets home" I insisted.
"Are you sure?"
"Of course, how is he, how did the operation go?"
"Nick, I'm very sorry to have to inform you that Aaron didn't survive his operation"
The kick to my stomach still resonates to this day. I was totally unprepared to hear those words. I never thought for a minute he wouldn't survive. This can't be right, what does she mean? There is no possible way that gorgeous little boy isn't still safe in his room where he waved me goodbye only a matter of days ago, him sitting on his mum's knee. No. I've misheard this. I've got the wrong end of the stick.
"What do you mean? What has happened?" I asked anxiously. The reply came back compassionately but very precisely.
"The operation was very complex and unfortunately there were complications that couldn't be overcome. I'm so sorry. Are you OK?"
Oh my god. I didn't mishear. There is no confusion. How, why? This can't happen. He's only just a toddler. He's never done anything wrong, why has he been punished and denied the life he so deserved? The emotion and upset was surging.
"I am OK"
"Thank you for letting us know, I'll tell mum when she gets home. I'm sorry I need to go"
I couldn't put the receiver down quickly enough.
I felt sick and just started to sob uncontrollably. At that moment I became aware of the radio piercing the silence of the house. John Secada started to play, Just another day (without you) seemed eerily significant at that exact moment. I only have to hear the intro to that song and the emotions of that day flood back in seconds. I will never bring myself to change the radio station though, I think it's good to have the memory refreshed. It's strange how music can hammer firmly a memory and emotions in your brain like that.
None of this made any sense to me at all. In the immediate weeks and months after Aaron's loss I just tried to make sense of the senseless, looking for answers where there were none.
My own situation seemed totally trivial now. I was damned if I would allow this "condition" get to me. Aaron had real problems, not my phoney SVT issue, how dare I feel sorry for myself or in some way cheated.I felt ashamed of my whining.
"You total prat. So wrapped up by your own self centred trivia that you have no idea of the real problems some people have to endure outside of your bubble".
I made myself a promise that I would deal with my condition swiftly and quit whining. I would live my life with Aaron's memory clear in my mind. If I can take his memory on a journey with me through my life, and live my life fully then he hasn't really gone. He will get the time he was so unjustly robbed of by sharing my experiences. He may have had little feet, but he left huge footprints.
That little boy is one of the reasons I always tell my children how much I love them, every single day. The reason I hug them that little bit tighter. The reason I adore every giggle and smile. Your children are the most precious gift you will ever have, never take a moment with them for granted.
A new chapter was about to begin in my life, college. I enrolled in a Sports Science course, the hope being that it would lead me nicely onto university where I wished to pursue a career as an outward bound instructor. The sotalol was still on the menu for breakfast and tea, but I was pretty much totally symptom free. That was to be expected given my condition wasn't really a "thing". I was just waiting for the cardiologist to acknowledge he was wrong and then I could stop the medication. The course would be no problem for me. It would prove to be a fantastic two years of my life, making new friends, one very special person in particular who would resonate with me in a way I couldn't even yet begin to comprehend.