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‘I don’t know any different’

Despite being born with a heart defect, Mark went on to be fitter than most and to doing a physically demanding job, just like he’d wanted.

Working for the Fire Service ignited a spark in Mark, leading him to the University of Leeds where he gained a Bachelor of Science specialising in fire. He went on to study at Cambridge, earning a Master’s in Science in Fire Investigation.

But it was during his last year of university, in his mid-20s, that Mark noticed another issue with his heart.

“I think it was the first day back at university in my final year. I walked up this hill and my heart rate was racing and I continued to monitor it through the lecture and it was probably well above 100 even though I’d been sat down.”

Mark quickly went to an A&E clinic and explained his heart history. He was admitted into hospital and stayed five or six days while doctors concluded he had supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). He was prescribed beta blockers and stayed on them for 13 years.

Once he’d started getting his fitness levels back up, Mark’s heart rate on betabblockers dropped down to 40 beats per minute, and eventually doctors reduced his dosage. However, once he immigrated with his young family to New Zealand in 2013, his exercise levels dropped and his resting heart rate went up again.

“I ended up having atrial fibrillation so I was cardio-verted about two or three times in 2013.” Then, in 2014, Mark had ablation therapy to burn through a small area of scar tissue believed to be triggering his AF. The procedure appeared to work, and Mark was taken off his medication. “So since 2014, I’ve had no drugs, no dramas, no issues,” he says.

Now aged 41, Mark is happily settled in New Zealand with his wife and two children. He still works as a fire risk engineer and travels extensively around the country. So in almost no regard has his heart condition held him back.

“As long as I can do exercise and carry on my life as I need to, I feel as though I’m doing all right.

“I would say that, to me, having a heart condition is normal. Well I don’t know any different because I was born with it.”


Shared February 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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  • Deb 1 January 2018

    Hi. I am a 57 year old woman living in Australia. I had corrective heart surgery for Tetralogy of Fallout in 1963. I am doing OK but get fatigued more these days.

  • Christopher 28 June 2017

    Hi Mark, I’m almost 65, on beta blocker medication after being diagnosed with atrial flutter. Had a cardioversion at Waikato a year ago. Success for a short time, but arrhythmia now established. On various meds morning and night. Suffer with poor hand circulation, fingers go number,  raynauds syndrome. Philosophical re my condition, getting on with life.