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Lucky to be alive

Wellingtonian Roger Calkin thought because he was being treated for high blood pressure and he’d seen a Cardiologist that he couldn’t have a heart attack and left it four hours before asking his wife to call the ambulance.

“We were staying with friends in Lower Hutt, we’d had had a nice dinner out and we were settling in to have a couple of drinks when the pain started.  At the time, it didn’t enter my mind that I was having a heart attack and we waited four hours to 2.30am, before calling the ambulance!

“Knowing what I know now, the warning signs were classic. The pain was excruciating – across the chest, down both arms and extending up to the jaw. Once I realised that I was having a heart attack, it was pretty scary but I had to stay as calm as possible so that I didn’t panic my wife.”

The good news was that the ambulance arrived really quickly, the staff saw what was happening and it was sirens all the way to hospital.

“That morning in October 2013, there was a full team waiting for me at Wellington Hospital and I had three stents inserted into a blocked artery.  And, just hours later at around 4.30am, I was sitting up and talking with his wife. I am lucky to be alive,” says Roger. 

Since the operation Roger, who is about to turn 50, has had cause to reflect on his life and he’s made some significant lifestyle changes to help prevent the likelihood of another heart attack.  

“While I had led a pretty healthy life for the last five to six years, I had stopped exercising as much as I had before while I was being treated for high blood pressure.  After my procedure, I went through a cardiac rehabilitation programme and I am now back to running 10 kilometres, and planning on running another half marathon.  Exactly four months after the heart attack I was discharged completely as a cardiac care outpatient.

“I’m also much more vigilant when it comes to my diet.  I’m careful with my portion sizes, but more significantly monitor the sodium content in my food and religiously read food labels. As a result, I have lost 15 Kilograms and taken critical weight off from around my middle.”

As a Regional Manager VIP Transport, Roger has also had to address stress in his life. These days he’s aware of the need to talk through issues and not bottle them up and the importance of not letting the little things get to him.  He’s also worked to simplify his life and reduce likely stressors.