Husband’s heart attack prompts 7-hour swim

For Pauline Mills, swimming 16km across a lake in England is much more than just a challenging goal.

The 51-year-old is swimming the length of Lake Windermere in September in honour of her husband Wayne, who is lucky to be alive after a massive heart attack last year.

“He just went all pale,” says Pauline of the event. “He didn’t have any pain at first but when we were in the car driving to A&E, he got pain in his arm. That’s when I knew it was a heart attack. I was really scared, but I managed to stay calm.”

Wayne’s heart attack came a week before a marathon swimming event that he was organising.

The active 60-year-old had just finished a long-distance group swim as part of his training for the event.

“I got out of the water and then, at the café, started feeling something like indigestion. I stood up and tried to stretch it out. Pauline said ‘You don’t look too good, I’m taking you to the hospital’.”

It’s lucky she did; Wayne was experiencing heart attack symptoms and having a full-scale event.

His cardiologist Rob Doughty – who is also the Heart Foundation’s Chair of Heart Health – inserted a life-saving stent into Wayne’s blocked artery.

Pauline’s swim is scheduled for Wayne’s 61st birthday on September 4, and she is using the event to raise money for the Heart Foundation.

“The Heart Foundation has really looked after Wayne and I just thought it was so good how they offered lots of help for free.”

She is training for the challenge about six times each week at Glen Innes pool in Auckland.

“My longest training swim so far has been 10km, which took me 3 hours and 28 minutes. It can get lonely being in the pool that long,” she says.

“I actually find it easier mentally to swim point-to-point, rather than lengths of the pool.”

Pauline is hoping to complete the enormous swim in under seven hours, and she has decided to wear only a swimsuit, not a wetsuit.

“Because it’s the end of summer in Europe, the water should be around 18 degrees.”

Wayne, who is now back in the water, will be kayaking alongside Pauline in support.

He says his heart attack was a shock not only for Pauline and their family, but his swim team as well. In fact, some have since gotten their hearts checked and one even had a stent put in to prevent a heart attack.

“I was one of the fittest swimmers so the fact that I had a heart attack has prompted them to take preventative action,” says Wayne. “If I can have a heart attack, anyone can.”

Could you spot a heart attack?