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Heart attack: ‘It felt like heartburn’

To support our Heart Attack Awareness campaign this month, Auckland resident John Trombik has boldly agreed to share his sobering story.

If John Trombik hadn’t acted so quickly, he might not be alive today. 

After getting up briefly in the early hours of the morning on 16 January this year, the 53-year-old started feeling a burning sensation in his throat.

“It felt like heartburn, as it spread to a wider area of my throat and to my chest within a minute. I lay and waited for it to go away.”

But when the sensation spread down his arms, he became worried. 

“I realised it might be a heart issue but was hoping not. To be safe, I rang 111 emergency, requested an ambulance and explained my condition to the operator.”

Ambulance staff quickly determined he was having a heart attack, and took him to hospital.

John is lucky he recognised something was wrong and called for help. His heart attack was caused by a blood clot in his left main artery, a serious event that puts the majority of the heart muscle at risk of damage.

“Later, I learned the seriousness of my heart attack, and that there are catastrophic consequences if there is a delay in getting treatment.”

In hospital, John’s blood clot was cleared using a catheter. While he didn’t need a stent, he is now permanently on medication.

Like many people, John had underestimated his risk of having a heart attack.

“Naively, because I didn’t know much about cardiac disease, I didn’t really think I was at risk of a heart attack. This is even with some family history of coronary heart disease. 

“I know now too that smoking cigarettes can provoke blood clotting, which combined with unstable artery plaque – the actual disease – placed me at high risk of a heart attack,” says the Auckland resident.

“I am thankful for the Heart Foundation. Right from my time in hospital and during rehab, I was exposed to a myriad of information supplied or endorsed by the Foundation. This greatly assisted me in understanding and moving forward from the heart event.”

Since his heart attack, John has stopped smoking, adjusted his diet and does regular exercise

“I’m now actually quite well, with no major physiological issues. According to the cardiologist my heart is good.”

As a heart attack survivor, John urges others to look out for the symptoms of a heart attack and seek help immediately.

“Take the time to learn about cardiac disease and make lifestyle choices to lower the risk. Also, it’s important to recognise the different symptoms of a heart attack and act expediently, as you can save your life or avoid irreversible damage to your heart.”