Weekend back pain turns life-threatening

When Wendy Laurence experienced persistent back pain one weekend she had no idea that her life was about to be turned upside down.

Wendy Laurence is volunteering as a street collector in this year's Big Heart Appeal, will you join her?

As the pain got progressively worse, it suddenly dawned on her that she could be having a heart attack.

“The situation was quickly getting out of hand so I asked my flatmate to help me.”

Wendy was rushed to hospital where she underwent an emergency operation.

“That was especially frightening because my father had died at the age of 56 after having stents put in his neck,” she says.

“The doctors did everything they could to allay my fears and explained in detail what the procedure involved - I felt much better for it.”

Thanks to the quick actions of the paramedics and doctors, Wendy was able to make it through the ordeal relatively unscathed. After the emergency operation, she spent a night in intensive care where she was monitored closely by hospital staff.

As part of her post-operative care, she took part in a check-up session with a nurse.

“She evaluated the damage done to my heart and discussed important factors such as diet to improve cardiovascular health.”

Six weeks later and Wendy’s health had improved to the point where she was able to return to work.

She also started attending monthly meetings that the Heart Foundation holds in Feilding.

“It was a suggestion from my sister in law that made me get in touch with the Heart Foundation. They came round to see me and offered their support.”

“The meetings were a great help. It was also good to hear other people’s stories and realise that many of the things I was experiencing were completely normal.”

Shortly after getting involved with the Heart Foundation, she began to give back to the organisation by volunteering as a collector during their Big Heart Appeal.

“I was more than willing to give something back to the Heart Foundation because they had helped me get back on my feet and put my mind at ease. I knew I had to do it, because they were always there for me.”

Wendy is particularly passionate about the research aspect of the Heart Foundation’s work.

“The aim of the Heart Foundation’s research is to improve heart health outcomes for New Zealanders.

“This is particularly close to my heart, given that I lost my father when he was still quite young.”

To anybody interested in volunteering for the Heart Foundation, Wendy is full of encouragement and support.

“People are really receptive to you when you’re collecting and want to talk about their own experiences of heart disease.”

Heart disease is New Zealand’s single biggest killer, claiming the lives of over 6,500 New Zealanders every year – that’s one person every 90 minutes. The charity funds leading-edge research and specialist training for cardiologists, while its education, prevention and support programmes address heart disease head-on in the community.


The Heart Foundation needs volunteers just like Wendy in all parts of the country for its Big Heart Appeal street collection on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 February 2019. Signing up is easy, simply visit heartfoundation.org.nz/volunteer and you will be helping to make a big difference in the lives of many Kiwis.