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We lost you Tony, you’re back now

When Rotorua bus driver Tony Karaka woke one morning in 2014 with a tight chest and short of breath, he never considered he could be having a heart attack. At just 42, he thought he was way too young.

Tony Karaka personal heart attack story

Tony Karaka, 42, thought he was too young to have a heart attack.      Photo/Ben Fraser Rotorua Daily Post


So, he got up and went to work. He remained short of breath all morning, was sweaty and clammy but carried on working.

“All I wanted to do was take a deep breath but I couldn’t – I decided I had a lung infection. I was clutching my chest but never thought I was experiencing the warning signs of a heart attack.”

During his lunch break he became really unwell.  A workmate could see something was seriously wrong and called an ambulance.

111 call

“I felt really scared when they called 111. I was so grateful when the ambulance arrived five minutes later.”

As Tony was wheeled into the ambulance he went into cardiac arrest and CPR was performed.

“All I remember is one of the paramedics saying, ‘we lost you Tony, you’re back now, stay with us’.”

Tony still didn’t realise he had experienced a heart attack. On arrival at the hospital he had another arrest and then another in Accident and Emergency.

Stents inserted

Tony was then flown by helicopter to Waikato Hospital where doctors inserted two stents to clear blocked arteries.

“I think the stresses of daily living was one of the causes of my heart attack but also I have a strong family history. I just didn’t think it would happen to me though, particularly at 42. 

Whānau matters

His experience had a significant impact on many of his family members.

“My whānau were stunned that it happened to me because I was so young, even though my father and grandfather both died of heart attacks,” says Karaka.

“It caused a ripple effect on all my family, particularly my partner, children and male family-members who realised they needed to reassess their lifestyles to try and prevent it happening to them.

“I was a very lucky boy but from my experience I would suggest Kiwi’s take more notice of their bodies and keep a watch out for anything not right.”

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