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Every day is a bonus

Doctor John Mayhew had been involved in many cardiac arrests in his medical career. But, he never expected to be the patient.

Portrait of Dr John Mayhew. He is wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and a red pocket square. The background is burred but appears to be foliage.

The former All Blacks and Warriors doctor was completing a workout at his local gym five years ago when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

The quick actions of others saved John's life

John said that, fortunately, an off-duty police officer working out at the gym at the time of the incident acted quickly and started CPR. 

“I don’t remember anything, but I hear they ripped off my shirt on the gym floor and successfully resuscitated me,” he says.

“I woke up after three days in Intensive Care on a ventilator, and luckily I had no neurological problems.”

Viral cardiomyopathy damaged John's heart

A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops. Several factors, including a virus, can cause it.

For John, it was due to a virus – known as viral cardiomyopathy – where, unknown to him, a virus had damaged his heart.

John said he probably would have died if the defibrillator had not been nearby.

“I was just fortunate that someone in my gym had been trained in resuscitation, and there was a defibrillator down the road.” 

He said he received excellent treatment and care at North Shore Hospital and is now fitted with a defibrillator inside his chest to make sure if the same thing happens again, he’ll get a warning shock.

Investment in heart research is vital, says John

“We are lucky these days to have a wide range of treatments and medications for heart disease, all of which are helping New Zealanders to live longer and healthier lives,” he says.

“The improvements we’ve seen over the past fifty years in managing heart conditions are considerable, but investment into heart research remains vital if we are to continue our progress.”

He says the Heart Foundation’s work to support investment in overseas training for Kiwi cardiologists is fantastic. “Through the support of donations, it allows them to support cardiologists to train at some of the best hospitals in the world and bring back those skills to save lives here.”

A fresh perspective on life

He says he feels incredibly lucky to be alive, giving him a fresh perspective on life.

“When I woke up and spoke to a psychologist the hospital had organised, she asked how I was feeling. All I could say was, ‘How lucky am I?’ I should have died, and I see every day from here as a bonus.”

These days, John keeps very busy as a General Practitioner on Auckland’s North Shore, as Chief Medical Officer at AIA Insurance and with his sports consultancy.

John keeps fit by doing light gym workouts and enjoying time with his wife, children and grandchildren.