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They can’t be talking about me

“He said that my heart had stopped and they’d just jolted me back to life. I just thought...they can’t be talking about me, absolutely not.” This is Linda’s story in her words as told to the Heart Foundation in an interview.

"On the 1st of December 2015, I had a plate removed from my left arm which was no problem. From the surgery going home and the next day, all was good. I had tea that evening and went to sleep. But then I woke up feeling very unwell.

"It seemed flu-symptom like, then the sweats, then rolling pain in the arm and I said to my husband that something was seriously wrong and that he’d better ring an ambulance.

"The ambulance staff arrived, and they were quite sure I was having a heart attack right there and then. But I sort of thought to myself I haven’t got any heart problems, I don’t take any medication, there’s never been anything wrong with me, so this guy perhaps doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

"So we got in the ambulance and got to hospital. Next thing, I woke up and there was something heavy on my chest. So I went to push it off and the person standing there said, ‘Please don’t touch that.' He said that my heart had stopped and they’d just jolted me back to life – all of which I found totally overwhelming. I just thought, he’s probably like the ambulance driver, he’s probably mistaken as well. Because they can’t be talking about me, absolutely not.

"Then I was told that my husband and my daughter were there waiting to talk to me and I was asked if I’d like to see them, and I said ‘of course’.

"The look on their faces would tell you that something seriously had gone wrong, but it just wasn’t with me. Because it just didn’t feel like I was the problem – I was okay..."

"The doctors had told me I was going to Dunedin, so I told my husband and daughter that I would be fine and that we’re going for a ride to Dunedin. I was also thinking to myself ‘what a waste of time, I’m feeling fine now’. Well I thought I was.

"When I’d heard the noise of the helicopter, I’d actually been unconscious for over an hour. They told me it was my helicopter ride, so we got in. The helicopter pilot put these plugs in my ears and told me every 10 minutes to put my thumbs up if I was okay. Well we’d just left off and I’d started to get pain and that’s when it really hit me that maybe there really was something wrong with me and it wasn’t everyone’s imagination."

Bleeding holds up treatment

"So we got to Dunedin and there were some people there that met us, and they asked me how the flight was. And I said, ‘Good, but your helicopter leaks because I’m very wet down the left side.' He said, ‘Well we’ll have a look at you once we get you inside.' So we got inside to Dunedin Hospital and I remember him saying, ‘Where is all the blood coming from?’

"And I can’t remember the exact name of it, but they put something through my system that dissolves or bursts all the blood clots that you may have. And of course the blood is extremely thin at this stage, and is looking for somewhere to escape – which it found through all my 16 stitches in my arm.

"So then they said that having an operation obviously wasn’t an option, so I was in critical care for three days while the bleeding stopped because there’s nothing that could thicken your blood or anything like that. After that I had two stents put in."

Bye-bye smoking and potato chips

"So from there it was a good look at my lifestyle, what I was doing. And pretty much they give you a list of things – of what are the really bad things you’re doing. Obviously for me, the top of the list was smoking.

"The second one was obviously too many potato chips and snack foods instead of fruit and vegies.

"We’re now just over nine months since my heart attack – I’ve lost 13.8 kilos and feeling really good for it. I’ve given up smoking, yes I am doing the healthy snacks.

"The cardiac classes were absolutely excellent. It really wakes you up to saying ‘you know, it’s not just okay’ – they haven’t just fixed you for you to go back and do exactly the same as what you were doing. You’re never going to get better if you do that.

"A big part of it was finding people to talk to, pamphlets to read. I very much enjoyed being a volunteer for the Heart Foundation due to the help they gave me in understanding what went wrong and how you, as a person, can do something about it.

"It is really scary. You don’t realise how scary it is until you’ve been and had an event like that, and you’re feeling alone simply because you're scared. If you go for a walk, what happens if you get chest pains? Can you get back? What about being alone at home?

"There’s so much reassurance in the books you read and in giving yourself confidence that you’re making changes and doing things to help yourself.

Back on track

"I’ve been back at work for quite a while now. I’m a bakery manager at a grocery store – been there for over 28 years. The owner/operator of our store, Brian, has been amazingly supportive and allowed me to transition back to work on full pay as and when I felt able.

"I used to drink about eight cups of coffee a day with two sugars – that’s 16 teaspoons of sugar. When you think about it that’s a lot of sugar! I now use the artificial sweetener for my two coffees in the morning at home, and the rest of the time I don’t have any sugars at all.

"Now to exercise, I help my husband with his lawn mowing business. This is when I truly feel my best, especially recently.

"Some habits are hard to break though. My first husband passed away seven-and-a-half years ago. We’d been married not quite 30 years, so after he died I was just devastated. So I got slack-happy: as for cooking for myself, it was far easier to open up a packet or open up a tin. And then these habits become normal.

"But I have since remarried and my husband loves to cook, and he’s a very good cook, but because it was such a habit, an hour-and-a-half after you’ve had tea you go back to the snack biscuits or the potato chips – not because you’re hungry, not because you want to – but because they’re there. And you’ve been doing that for years.

"So I think the most important thing is taking little steps so you continue being strong and don’t slip back into old habits – where you think ‘oh I’ve just had some potato chips so I’ll just have some snack biscuits’ instead of ‘I’ll peel that apple and have a couple of kiwifruit’.

"It’s about making some adjustments and being determined to stick to them."


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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