Skip to main content

Heart attack inspires marathon effort

Unaware that he had experienced a heart attack during the night, West Coast farmer John Michell persevered with the farm chores that weekend. Now one year after undergoing a double bypass operation, John is determined not to let his heart event get the better of him.

john michell heart attack

Sadly, following the publication of this story, John Michell died from a second heart attack, on 10 June, 2017. We offer our condolences to the Michell family and acknowledge their continued support

West Coast dairy farmer John Michell is not only grateful to be alive but is thankful to his local community and the Heart Foundation who rallied to support him after he had a heart attack.

In June 2015, John awoke feeling unwell. The farm was flooded and not knowing he had had a heart attack during the night, he persevered with the chores that weekend.

Still feeling unwell on the Monday, he visited a local medical centre and had an ECG and blood tests done before heading home. The next day, his wife Charmaine got a call from the centre advising her that the blood tests showed John had had a heart attack.

“My immediate thought was, ‘Oh God this can’t be true.’”

She broke the news to John and the pair immediately went to Greymouth Hospital which was an hour’s drive away.

John was flown to Christchurch Hospital by air ambulance. He was later transferred to St Georges where he underwent a double bypass operation as two arteries were severely blocked.

Complete Surprise

Charmaine said the heart attack took John and the family completely by surprise. Aged 59, fit and a non-smoker, he had not needed to see a doctor for over 11 years.

“We were devastated by the news and couldn’t figure out why it had happened to him because we have always led a pretty active lifestyle,” Charmaine said.

“It was particularly hard for the kids because their dad has never been sick in his life.”

Giving back

A year later, John decided he wanted to give back to others who have experienced the heartache and challenge of dealing with heart disease.

He, Charmaine and their oldest-of-three sons, Layton, signed up as Heart Racers in the 2016 ASB Auckland Half Marathon to raise funds for the Heart Foundation.

Friends and family immediately rallied behind them.

“Instead of people paying us to buy our animals in spring, we got them to donate the money to the Heart Foundation. Our friends and family supported us and helped us fundraise for the event,” Charmaine says.

Leading up to the marathon, the pair were so busy on the farm that training consisted of walking the hills on their 190 hectares of land.

Friend's sudden death

Charmaine said the sudden death of a close family friend – Kevin Crombie - was also another reason why they wanted to support the Heart Foundation.

“He went to golf one day and died from a massive heart attack. It happened just before his 60th birthday. He was a wonderful man and it was just such a shock for everyone. It also made us realise how lucky we were that John survived.”

Heart Foundation Support

Charmaine and John say they regularly use the Heart Foundation website as a recovery tool.

“We find their online healthy recipes and heart health advice particularly useful, given that we’re in a rural location which is 30kms from Hokitika.”

John has also attended a Heart Foundation talk on how to read food labels.

“While the heart attack certainly left us all reeling, we’re incredibly grateful to the medical staff at the hospitals, his childhood community, friends and family, and the Heart Foundation for being there to help us during a difficult time.”