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Keith credits his fitness for his quick recovery post heart surgery



Fitness aids recovery after heart bypass

Keith has returned from Germany, having won two trophies at an international ice-skating competition. It’s a change from just a few months ago, when it was doubtful he would even compete as he was recovering from a heart bypass.

It was during Keith’s ice-skating training that he first noticed something wasn’t right.

“I just kept thinking, something’s wrong with me,” Keith explains. A fit man and keen ice skater, he began to notice difficulties while practicing pairs skating with his partner Sharon in Australia.

“I didn’t have any pain, I wasn’t short of breath, I just found everything I lifted was extremely heavy compared to what it should have been.”

Keith ended up dropping his partner during a lift. Sharon cracked her ankle and had to have a plaster cast, counting her out of the international competition this year. Four weeks later, while yachting on Stewart Island, Keith was struggling to carry even the small diesel tanks that needed refilling for the yacht. It was then that he sought medical attention for himself.

“Every few metres I’d have to put the tanks down and go again – I just couldn’t do it. It just seemed far too heavy for me. So I knew something was wrong.”

An ECG and blood test showed nothing amiss, and local doctors concluded that it must be a stomach problem. When Keith got back to Dunedin, his own GP agreed but Keith wasn’t satisfied with the diagnosis. As he was still planning to skate in Germany, he wanted reassurance that there was nothing more serious wrong with him.

“I thought I’d better have a check-up before I went because I was really nervous – if something went wrong, I’d be in the crapper over there.”

Keith went in to A&E and arranged for an ECG treadmill test. A follow-up angiogram allowed doctors to diagnose angina, and he was told he wasn’t going home. Keith ended up waiting three weeks in hospital before having a bypass operation to improve blood flow to his heart.

“Don’t totally believe everything you’re told on the first round. Get a couple of second opinions. I knew my body, so I knew something else was wrong, not my stomach. If you know something’s not right, pursue it.”

Keith credits his fitness and life-long healthy diet for his quick recovery after his open heart surgery. Ten weeks later, he was back skating... 

“I suppose I was a bit naughty. I wasn’t supposed to skate for six months and I was out skating after two and a half. I didn’t have pain or anything like that – I recovered pretty quickly. Now, if I stripped off you can’t even see the scars on my leg, and the scar on my stomach is almost gone.

“Fitness is pretty important. Diet is probably important – although I had a good diet all along. I think my problem was hereditary. My cousin has had a quadruple bypass, and I was very conscious of what I ate long before this. I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink.

Despite his recent heart surgery, Keith was very pleased with his performance at the Obersdorf international ice-skating competition. “It’s basically considered to be the world competition, it attracts 630 skaters from 37 countries. I was the oldest male at the competition and I came the furthest and I won two trophies.”

“My advice for others would be to stay positive, and keep fit.” 


Shared July 2017

Please note: the views and opinions of the storyteller and related comments may not necessarily reflect those of the Heart Foundation NZ.

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