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From heart pain to aeroplane

Born in Dover, England, in 1934, Ian has been on a journey all over the world from Zambia to New Zealand, where he built a life with his beloved wife and their children. At 90, he is now skydiving on his birthday to raise funds for the Heart Foundation.

Ian Robinson in a family gathering.

“I was a police officer and a diamond driller in Zambia,” says Ian. “But I also met my beloved wife Œnone, which was the most significant part of my time there.”

The loss of their first child led to the couple relocating to New Zealand to start a new life in 1961. They had three more children and Ian worked in multiple roles before retiring and moving to Knightsbridge Village in 2001.

Major heart event narrowly avoided

In 2019, Ian endured a heart attack that would change his life.

“We were in Paihia when it happened,” he recalls. “I had no idea I was suffering a heart attack so we returned to Auckland that morning as planned and I elected to drive.”

Ian was in excruciating pain but said he wanted to drive to distract him, which nearly cost him his life. Miraculously, he drove all the way to his doctor and was later taken to hospital by his daughter, where doctors intervened in time to save his life.

“I was just trying not to think about the intense pain I was suffering,” he says. “I eventually arrived at North Shore Hospital late that day and the next morning it was lights and sirens to Auckland Hospital for an emergency angiogram.”

An angiogram is when metal mesh tubes (stents) are inserted into clogged arteries around the heart to reopen them and resume normal blood flow.

“Three stents were inserted and I had the same procedure a few days later in North Shore Hospital when a fourth stent was inserted,” says Ian. “It saved my life and I’m so grateful that it wasn’t worse than that, as it easily could have been.

“I became well known in the cardiac ward as the guy who drove from Paihia to Auckland while suffering a major heart attack. One cardiologist remarked, ‘It isn’t usual for the patient to be driving the ambulance!’”

Recovery and resolve

Since the incident, Ian has made it his mission to make the most of his second chance.

“Despite one or two initial setbacks, I have made a good recovery and have experienced no other major heart events since,” he says.

Throughout his recovery, Ian found solace and support in the care of his assigned nurse practitioner Jo Wickham. Her dedication and expertise became a beacon of hope.

“She is my guardian angel and is well aware that my desire is not for longer life but for the best quality of life that medication and care can assist with,” he says. “So far with her help, it appears to be working.”

However, tragedy struck once more when Ian's beloved wife passed away after undergoing heart surgery.

“A year after my heart attack, my darling wife and soulmate Œnone was hospitalised with a major heart condition requiring open heart surgery,” says Ian. “Unfortunately, she passed away a few days after the operation.”

Ian's picture with his family and close ones.

Giving something back

“As you can imagine, heart medicine and research is very much on my mind,” says Ian.

In the wake of his loss, Ian found a renewed sense of purpose. With his 90th birthday approaching in April, he made a bold decision—to celebrate life by fulfilling a long-held dream of a parachute jump.

“I have in the past done paragliding, parasailing, hot air ballooning and gliding,” he says. “I’ve also taken helicopter rides over Victoria falls and Kilauea volcano in Hawaii and in a fit of youthful enthusiasm I even had a flying lesson.”

This latest endeavour is not just for the thrill of it; Ian saw this as an opportunity to give back to the Heart Foundation, whose research and care continue to play a crucial role in his life and those who suffer from heart disease.

“I hope I can generate enough interest and publicity which will result in substantial donations to the Heart Foundation,” he says. “The research they do is so important. I do not have a target in mind. The sky is literally the limit!”

Though the leap from the plane is yet to come, Ian already feels a sense of exhilaration, knowing that each moment brings him closer to his goal.

“Two of my grandsons will be jumping with me,” he says, “so it promises to be a really special event.”

Ian also has his sights set on more daring exploits in the future – showing just what an incredible 90-year-old he is.

What is next on his bucket list?

“Well, I would like to do a wing walk, so keep your eyes peeled for that!”

You can sponsor Ian and help fund life-saving heart research by 

Visiting Ian's Fundraising page