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A second chance to live life

Adventure fisherman, entrepreneur and father of four, Andrew Hill suffered the first of three heart attacks at 40. Ten years later, at 50, he is encouraging others to get their hearts checked.

Andrew Hill appears to be laughing - he is wet, as though he has just come out of the sea or has been caught in heavy rain.

Heart disease was hereditary

Andrew always knew that heart disease ran in the family. But, despite his mother's advice to have medical check-ups, he resisted. He was fit and active and didn't think he had much to worry about.

He also had another heart attack risk factor – high blood pressure – but he'd also avoided medication for that.

It wasn't long before his heart health caught up with him.

Unexpected warning signs were frightening

"My first event was probably the most traumatic out of them all," he adds.

One afternoon in October 2012, while hanging out with his friends, Andrew felt uncomfortable in his upper body. Later that night, the discomfort got worse.

"I was lying on the bed, feeling like my whole chest was closing up, and I could barely breathe," he recalls.  

Andrew went to an after-hours emergency clinic, but an ECG didn't highlight any irregularities. A second ECG at the GP the next day was also inconclusive, but Andrew knew something was wrong. 

Heart attack diagnosis confirmed

"Once I reached Middlemore Hospital, they realised it was a heart attack. Andrew was swiftly fitted with stents to open up the blocked arteries and given heart medication to reduce his risk of further heart attacks.

"When I came out of the hospital, I sort of felt bulletproof and had this even better quality of life because of the meds and the stents," he says. "I felt like I was breathing better. I could look back and see all the warning signs had been there." 

Not out of the water yet

Five years after his first heart attack, Andrew was out on his jet ski when he experienced a similar discomfort in his chest.

"I was alone, and that was quite scary." After making it safely off the water, Andrew was soon back in the hospital and fitted with further stents.

Committed to lifestyle changes

Andrew took on all the advice he received after his first two heart attacks and committed to taking his medication and living a healthy lifestyle.

But despite this, Andrew's shortness of breath returned three years after his second heart attack and two weeks before Christmas. He had experienced another heart attack. This time he needed double bypass surgery.

Staying optimistic after double bypass surgery

"It was pretty devastating, but it had to be done."

Andrew's confidence lifted when he could walk out of the hospital two days after his double bypass surgery to go home and be with his family.

Recovering from surgery meant he could not be fishing and riding his jet ski on the ocean. Instead, he took to reading many success stories that rebuilt his confidence.

"Seeing people out there living good lives after double bypass surgery really inspires me," he says.

Advice for the 'typical Kiwi bloke'

"If you have high blood pressure and things aren't feeling right, don't be complacent and a typical Kiwi bloke like I was. You need to get on top of it early. I should have listened when I was younger to my mother's advice."

"I have huge respect for the New Zealand cardiologists and heart surgeons who are saving lives and giving those with heart conditions a better quality of life."

Supporting the Big Heart Appeal

Andrew is supporting this year's Big Heart Appeal. He is encouraging New Zealanders to help the Heart Foundation fund life-saving heart research by donating what they can.

Heart disease can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
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