More tired by the day and no clue why
As an active 45-year-old farmer, it was unusual for Scott to feel so tired and unmotivated. It took him some months to figure out why.
From growing up on a farm to running his own farm, Scott’s the sort of bloke who usually gets up and goes.
So, when tiredness set in last September – the sort he couldn’t shake – he knew something wasn’t right. But he couldn’t put his finger on what it was.
“Just progressively I think I was getting more and more tired all the time,” he says. And not just after exercising, but generally.
“I’d come home after work and after five minutes I’d be asleep in the chair and just lacking energy and motivation, I think, to get a lot of my work done.”
This went on for a few months, and to top it off he wasn’t sleeping. “I was continually waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning and feeling quite anxious I guess, and not being able to go back to sleep.
“I did have a little sensation in the back of my throat, but didn’t quite understand what it was.” The sensation was there when he woke up, and got a little worse with exercise. “It’s like heartburn, but it’s not heartburn. It’s not around your sternum, it’s more up the back of your neck.”
He tried to manage his symptoms by resting a bit more, and delegating the farm’s most physical jobs to other people.
When eventually Scott went to see his GP, he was met with a locum. He described all his symptoms, and as a result was prescribed antacids and started on depression treatment. “I didn’t really think I needed to be on them, to be totally honest.”
Still not 100%
Scott still wasn’t feeling 100%: still tired, still not sleeping and still lumped with an uncomfortable throat sensation. As a father of three and a keen cyclist, he kept pushing himself through what were ‘normal’ activities for him – but with very abnormal consequences.
“I did think I was just unfit and probably pushed it a bit more biking, but I just seemed to be getting slower and slower and slower on my bike ride.”
Then, during a family holiday on Easter Weekend, he struggled to walk up a hill that was neither steep nor too long. “I just felt really heavy in my legs, with an increased sensation in my throat. I didn’t say anything to anyone, just carried on really and got home.”
A week after that, Scott went for a bike ride with a friend. “We’d set off from Rotherham and got six or seven kilometres down the road and I just said to him ‘I’ve got to turn back because I don’t feel very well.’ He had a look at me – and he’d actually had a heart attack a year or two before – and he told me to go and get checked out because I was looking really grey.”
After waiting it out a couple of weeks to see if he’d feel better, Scott then went back to his GP – and this time his usual GP was there...
His GP did a resting ECG and took Scott’s blood pressure – all of which was fine. He then asked about his family history and Scott informed him that his father had a heart attack and a triple coronary bypass when he was 57.
With that in mind, his GP promptly referred him for an exercise ECG in Christchurch. “I failed that,” says Scott, who went on to have an angiogram. It turns out Scott’s left anterior descending artery was 99% blocked. “My side ones were probably 50-70% blocked as well.”
Scott was fitted with two 25mm stents joined together. “I was discharged the next day and pretty much noticed a difference straight away.”
‘Doing pretty okay’
Thanks to the stents, Scott says he now has more energy, is thinking a lot clearer, and is happier all-round. He’s been back on his bike and has even performed in his first drama production.
Scott wasn’t advised to change his diet as he “doesn’t eat really badly”. His cholesterol, however, dropped from 6.1 down to around 4 since his diagnosis. Medication, such as statins and aspirin, is helping with that, he says.
Scott was invited to attend cardiac rehab, but didn’t take up the offer. “I was doing pretty okay,” he says. “I feel fine and just really thankful.”
Looking back on his journey, Scott’s particularly grateful to his doctor who took action when he did. Being relatively young, Scott never pegged his symptoms as signs of heart disease.
“I knew something wasn’t right, but I never thought I was going to have a heart attack or anything. Well, luckily I haven’t… but I must’ve been pretty damn close.”
For anyone else experiencing something similar, Scott advises getting a second opinion when a diagnosis or treatment doesn’t feel right. “I guess (heart disease) can be easily misdiagnosed. I had a few signs, but whether I portrayed them correctly at the time, I don’t know.”
Now, at least, he knows the signs to look for; he has a yearly check-up with the specialist and has even taken steps to make life a little easier. “Recently we’ve employed a full-time staff member on the farm to help out – giving yourself more time off is probably a good thing.”
Shared December 2016