“We hang in this world by a thin string.”

Heart Healthcare Story

The day began unremarkably.

As a doctor, I’d worked the previous night so I started the day a little later.

I began with a five-kilometre run, continuing my exercise plan I was so proud of.

Arriving at the office that morning I immediately began seeing patients. All went smoothly. Having finished the medical portion of my last patient of the morning, I was just having idle conversation.

From what I gather, during my conversation with the child’s mother I blacked out. My office staff called for assistance.

CPR was begun while the paramedics were called. When they arrived, they found me unresponsive and in ventricular fibrillation.

Realising the situation, the paramedics immediately shocked my heart back into its normal rhythm. Once medically stable, I was transported to a nearby hospital to sort out what happened.

There were many questions asked trying to determine the cause of the episode. After several days of tests, my family was told I had suffered a cardiac arrest, and it was determined an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) would be implanted.

With this, we could rest comfortably knowing if my heart did return to an unstable rhythm, I would receive an electrical shock to reestablish a normal heartbeat.

What did I learn from this experience? I had always appreciated health, family and friends. I had always appreciated every day of my life.

Now I understand something many people never understand. Life is very fragile.

We hang in this world by a thin string. The fact there is so much in life that can go wrong, so much that can easily snatch life away from us is easily forgotten.

Each day, I try to appreciate this fine balance. How suddenly life can change. How important it is to appreciate all that we have.

Living life to its fullest, never taking anything for granted is the essence of living, what it means to live life.

I know I had a second chance.

– Barry, 38

“Three of my heart’s major arteries were blocked with plaque.”

Heart Healthcare Story

For months, I felt bone-tired.

I chalked it up to having too much on my plate. Even when I collapsed at work one day, I never dreamed it could be heart disease.

In fact, I’d been short of breath and felt a vague heaviness in my chest for as long as I could remember.

I was always pushing myself and not listening to what my body was telling me.

It took another 10 months of blackout spells before my doctors finally figured out I had vascular disease caused by high cholesterol levels – three of my heart’s major arteries were blocked with plaque.

Doctors performed an angioplasty and placed stints in the arteries to reopen the blood flow to my heart.

With my extensive family history of heart disease – heart attacks killed my 42-year-old father and 32-year-old brother – I now understand the threat to my family’s health. My children now take heart medication to lower their risk as well.

I attend cardiac rehabilitation three times a week, and I’m learning to be more physically active and eat healthier. At rehab, I ride a bike, walk on a treadmill and do some stretching. I went from a size 22 to size 10.

Women should realise heart disease is their number one killer. Every woman should pay attention to their bodies and be assertive with their doctors if they have any symptoms at all – regardless if they are vague or not.

I’m so lucky and grateful I didn’t have a heart attack.

Ruth-Ann, 46

“I walked out of the hospital, happy to see the blue sky again.”

Heart Healthcare Story

It all happened very quickly.

Walking up the stairs in our home to get dressed to go run an errand, I noticed I was out of breath and a little weak.

Then, while pulling on my shoes downstairs, the strength drained right out of me − so much so that I could barely sit up.

I happened to check my pulse and felt my heart beating rapidly. It was very scary. I thought I was having a heart attack. My wife called an ambulance.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed atrial fibrillation, a condition involving an irregular heart rhythm, known as an arrhythmia.

If left untreated, atrial fibrillation may cause the blood to pool in the heart and form blood clots. If a clot were to travel to my brain, it could cause a stroke.

I was immediately put on medication to try to slow my heartbeat, but it didn’t have the desired effect. So the doctors performed an electric cardioversion procedure, in which the heart is shocked back into its normal rhythm.

When it was over, I felt right as rain, and I walked out of the hospital, happy to see the blue sky again.

Today, I take medication to control my heart’s rhythm and a blood thinner to prevent blood clots.

My physician is very aware that my mother had a stroke and has helped me manage the atrial fibrillation between visits to my heart specialist.

Lifestyle habits are also important in keeping my heart healthy. I take our dog for long walks twice a day, play golf on a regular basis and avoid caffeine in all forms – coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate.

I am extremely grateful for our healthcare system. I have an enormous appreciation for all that the doctors and nurses did to save my life.

– Gordon, 57