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Indigestion, or something else?

John was convinced that the pain across his chest was indigestion – not a heart attack.

John and his wife had just been to the mall in Riccarton, where they’d picked up some groceries and had fast food for lunch. They caught the bus back to Burnside and were only four houses from home when John felt a pain across his chest.

“I thought 'Oh it’s indigestion, it’s that damn fast food for lunch,'" says John.

They managed to get inside the house where he took some frozen foods out to the garage freezer, thinking the pain would go away.

“But it didn’t go away and my wife told me to sit down for a while, so I did and it just wouldn’t go away. Then after about 20 minutes I started to feel as though I wanted to be sick, but I couldn’t vomit at all.”

John’s wife thought he was looking very pale and called the family doctor, who advised her to “get John in straight away”.

“Our Kendal medical centre is just in walking distance of about 8 to 10 minutes, but I wasn’t able to walk. Neither of us drive a car and so we tried the neighbours to see if we could get a lift, but neither neighbour on each side was home,” says John. So they took a taxi instead.

"I had no idea it was a heart attack at all."

Once at the medical centre, John’s doctor did an ECG and told him he’d had a heart attack. He called for an ambulance straight away.

“I was being treated on the way in, and within an hour from leaving Kendal medical centre, at Christchurch Hospital, they found a blockage in one of the arteries to my heart.

“It was blocked with plaque which they cleared, and then they put a stent in.” By 3.30pm John was back in the recovery ward and “feeling fine”. He was there for five days and was sent home with “all the info from the Heart Foundation,” he says...

Never a day’s illness

John is still surprised he could’ve been a candidate for heart disease. “I had no idea it was a heart attack at all, just as I’ve read in other reports.”

He knows for a fact that his blood pressure was normal, as right up until his heart attack he’d been a blood and plasma donor. “Of course when you went to the blood service they checked your blood pressure every time you went.”

He’d always had a sight disability, but “had never had a day’s illness” in his life. “I was 68 at the time, I’d had good health up until then and I’ve got good health now as far as I’m concerned.”

Life after the heart attack

When he returned home from hospital, John took daily walks each week, but didn’t mow the lawns for 6 to 12 weeks – “I did all the right things.”

He is now on five pills a day, and says he hasn’t “felt a murmur since”. 

“I feel really good, I probably even feel better now than what I did before I went into hospital.”

John feels grateful to his wife who was by his side the whole time, but eventually fell sick herself.

“About three months later, sadly she came down with cancer and died the year after.

“As I say to everybody, it should have been me, I was the one that was meant to be going first, but it didn’t happen that way.”

John now has a new partner, and together they enjoy some gardening and taking regular walks. He says that at 71, he does not feel his age at all, and is back to mowing lawns and doing a bit of digging. 


Shared November 2016

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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