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Stents to prevent a heart attack

Even though David’s family has a history of heart attacks, it took him three months to visit the doctor about the pain in his sternum. Further investigation revealed two blocked arteries.

David’s father experienced a heart attack a number of years ago, and more recently passed away from a stroke. As well as the sad loss of his father, this unfortunately put David at a higher risk of having his own heart issues.

“It was always in the back of my mind,” David said. “But I was playing a lot of sport and doing a lot of rugby refereeing. I felt good and had no symptoms. I probably felt like I was indestructible at that time, until now.”

A few months ago David began to experience a pain in the centre of his sternum that wouldn’t go away.

“I thought I’d done something in the gym while I was there. I left it and left it and finally it just came to a head one night. I had my daughter round for dinner and I couldn’t clean up the dishes. I think that night was actually an angina attack. So I rung my GP and arranged to go and see him the next day and we started taking some action.”

Angina diagnosis confirmed

David’s GP sent him for tests at Greenlane Medical Centre in Auckland, and he was given a stress echo.  

“My heart was pumping the right amount of times per minute, but they put me on the treadmill with the wires all attached to me and they must have picked up something along the way there. It sort of triggered off that I needed to be seen by somebody else. They’ve since found out that I have a leaky heart valve, which they aren’t really too concerned about, but I’ll be having an echo test probably every couple of years and that will pick up if it gets any worse.”

David also had an angiogram. The angiogram revealed that two of his arteries were blocked and so two stents were inserted to open them up again. The pain he had been feeling was caused by angina.

“The cardiologist was marvellous and talked me through the whole process. The procedure itself was very seamless, painless and if anyone’s scared because they think it’s going to hurt, it doesn’t. They put the wire through your wrist. Up through your main artery, through your arm and down into your heart,” he said.

“Just check it out and get it done. It was the best thing I did.”

The angioplasty only took 30 or 40 minutes, but because David had two stents inserted, he was monitored overnight in hospital, then given the all clear to go home the following morning.

Cardiac rehabilitation

David attended a local cardiac rehab class and describes it as “an eye opener”. He found meeting others who had also experienced heart disease very useful.

“You know you listen to other people’s stories and journeys and you realise there are a lot of people in a worse situation than yourself. I would give it 10/10 and would recommend it to anybody that’s got a dodgy heart.”

As well as meeting others at cardiac rehab, David’s family and friends provided him with lots of support before and after his angioplasty.

“I explained to them it’s a pretty simple procedure, but everyone expects the worst when you go to hospital. You know it’s amazing, you get the word out and you get a lot of texts and phone calls from people. The network and support is really good; people are still asking how I am.”

Life continues

Since the stents were inserted, David has experienced a noticeable change in how he feels.

“If anything you just feel better. You just don’t get pain in your chest. All my symptoms have gone. I’m basically pain free.”

Even though the stents have made it easier for David’s blood to get through his arteries, he will have to take medication to keep his heart working to the best of its ability and to lower his cholesterol. He will also be on aspirin for the rest of his life, but he takes it all in his stride and always remembers to take his medication with him wherever he goes.

After a hard year, David is happy the pain has subsided for now and he can spend more quality time with his wife, children and grandson, who he needs all of his energy for!

“The little fella keeps you really busy running around so it’s good to have this heart event behind me now so I can enjoy time with him.”

Keeping healthy

David has always led an active life and continues to exercise regularly since the stents were inserted.

“At the heart group that I go to, they mentioned that exercise was important. I’m always conscious of exercising every day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. I just do as much as I can.”

David has also changed his diet.

“I’m definitely eating less bad food. Like everybody, I liked fish and chips occasionally but my wife’s got me eating more broccoli and spinach. It’s just change of lifestyle for me now and it’s in a good way, not a bad way.”

Reflecting on his experience, David recommends for anyone in the same situation to get checked sooner, rather than later.

“I had pain in my sternum or chest probably two or three months before I did anything about it. I was just being a bloke, being blasé about it.  I would highly recommend that if you feel any chest pain, check it out, and if you don’t think you’ve got the right answer, keep asking the question.”


Shared December 2018

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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