“If in doubt, check it out”

Nothing about Phil’s symptoms were what he expected when he had a heart attack. Now he’s encouraging others to take notice of any unfamiliar symptoms and ‘If in doubt, check it out’.

Ten men die from heart disease in New Zealand every day. Many of these deaths could be preventable if more people were to recognise the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and call 111 immediately.  

After suffering a heart attack in 2016, Phil is encouraging other men to get checked out if they’re not feeling quite right. 

Phil was jogging to his car after a gym workout when he first felt what he thought was heartburn. When jogging it off didn’t work, he walked the rest of the way feeling ‘A bit off’.  

“I have weird food and chemical sensitivities. I can eat something and feel really off straight away so I’m very used to that kind of feeling.”  

Even so, he booked an appointment with his GP in five days’ time for a check-up, thinking there would be nothing wrong. 

However, the same symptoms struck again a few days later. 

“I was at home and bending down to put a log of wood on the fire, the heartburn feeling came back again. Also, the insides of my elbows and arms felt a wee bit achy and I had – you can’t really call it pain – but discomfort, in my lower jaw. I had to go and lie down because suddenly, I started feeling really quite rough.” 

Phil and his wife went to the nearest emergency clinic, but while there he started to feel better and began to worry that he was ‘Making a fuss’. 

“All the time I was thinking, ‘Oh God, I hope I’m not wasting their time. They’re all so busy dealing with really sick people and here I am coming in.’ That was one of the barriers I had to get over. It wasn’t a she’ll be right attitude, it was about thinking, ‘Am I a legitimate patient?’ That was a big barrier. 

“I could see from the ED nurse’s face that she didn’t think this was going to be a heart attack, but fortunately they were all very professional and went through the protocols.” 

Though Phil thought by this point that there was nothing wrong, an electrocardiograph (ECG) test revealed he had suffered a heart attack and he was taken straight to the resuscitation unit. 

“Just like the Heart Foundation ad says, nothing about my heart attack was how you see people having a heart attack in a movie or TV programme. Honestly, if it wasn’t for that ad, I might’ve just put it down to some sort of food or chemical sensitivity attack that I get or that I had a bit of a bug or something.” 

After having two stents put in, Phil was discharged a few days later and spent two weeks recovering at home with his family. 

“Fortunately, I’ve been able to get back to normal relatively quickly, so family life has gone back to normal quickly as well. And you get a lot of reassurance with that normality.” 

Following his experience, Phil urges others to get checked out even if you’re not certain you have heart attack symptoms. 

“I’m really appreciative of the Heart Foundation ad. I think it really struck a chord in saying a heart attack may not be as dramatic as you think, something could still be happening and please get it checked out. 

“One of the biggest things I recommend is, ‘If in doubt, check it out’. If you know something’s not quite right then it doesn’t hurt to just go and ask, to get it checked out.”