Heart attack sparks a new attitude to life
Published: 30 April 2021
When Chess suffered a heart attack in 2015, she struggled with denial and anger, but now, years later she lives life with renewed vigour.
After having a stent put in her heart, Chess says she lingered in resentment as she had to give up smoking. It's taken a while for Chess to reach a stage where she now looks at life with optimism rather than fear.
“At the time I had to deal with a lot of stuff I didn’t want to. I got rid of a lot of stuff that was unnecessary in my life, and then I just didn’t care what people thought of me after that.”
When Chess suffered a heart attack in 2015, she was working in retail, a job she had had for 11 years.
When she first felt pain in her chest, she put it down to muscle strain from heavy lifting at work the day before.
“But I’d experienced the same pain earlier in the year, so I decided to visit my GP, who carried out tests which showed I’d actually had a significant heart event,” she says.
After spending three days in hospital and having a stent inserted to open the blocked artery, she returned home and began addressing her health and lifestyle.
“I was a tobacco addict and even though I immediately gave up smoking, I really struggled with having to make that decision without any planning,” she says.
“Having a heart attack was traumatic enough without having to cope with my smoking addiction on top of that. But I have, and I continue to be smoke free.”
Throughout her recovery Chess says her daughter Maddison and partner Daniel were by her side to support her.
“After my heart attack my daughter’s world just stopped to look after me. Bless her, it was very sweet,” says Chess.
“At the beginning Maddison was immediately proactive in my recovery process. More so than I was because I was far too busy wallowing in self-pity. I was grieving for myself. She basically kick started the process. I could tell she was worried about me. I think that's what concerned me more than anything, that she was scared."
“She would also write everything down, ask questions and seek answers. To be honest she paid more attention to the detail than I did. She made lists and was very handy with time management. In fact, in the first couple of weeks she managed me.”
Chess says that a large part of this experience is seeing the anguish that her heart attack put on her family and friends, and how much she needed them in recovery.
“My daughter can testify to this. I think where she is concerned, the heart event was out of her control, but the recovery process is where she could be an active participant.”
During her recovery, Chess revaluated her life and after working in her retail job for 11 years she decided to move on.
She says she’s now planning to travel with her family ‘when the world isn’t so crazy.’
“Keeping family close to us has been a priority, especially with Covid-19. We've come to appreciate our country and our people more and we’re grateful to belong to such a sensible and practical nation. Plus, we became grandparents last year and we want to be near our little granddaughter Manaia.”
Chess is now passionate about helping others to make good life choices, rather than be forced into them by ill health.
Far from being overwhelmed and sad about her experience, Chess is getting on with her life with a new vigour and a positive attitude.
“Life is short. I had a heart attack! If I want to do something, I’ll do it.”