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Too fit for a heart attack?

Paul did not believe he had a heart attack – he was fit and cycling up to 60 kilometres at times.

Paul had always been active, but since leaving the military in 1999 he had put on a bit of weight and run into a lot of stress, both at home and at work.

By 2006 he’d decided to get back into exercise, but running proved too hard on his knees and he was “sick of walking”. So he got out his bike and started cycling short distances at first, before working his way up to 60 km a day.

“One day I was only about 1 km into the ride and I started getting a tingling sensation in my hands, which wasn’t that unusual, but not this early in the ride.

“I started to ride up hill when I was hit with chest pain, these went away when the ground flattened out. I was almost at the 15 km point of a 20 km ride, but had to stop and rest for the second time.”  

Another cyclist going past stopped to ask if he was okay and called for an ambulance.

Paul was taken to North Shore Hospital where it was confirmed he had a heart attack. The next morning, he went to Auckland Hospital for an angiogram where he learnt he had a 40% blockage, “which they believed they could treat with medication,” says Paul.

His real challenge, however, was processing the news. “My biggest problem, was that I didn’t believe I had had a heart attack as I had always been very active and therefore didn’t have any of the risk factors.

“I was embarrassed to tell anyone, I had four days in hospital and still didn’t believe it.”

Not long after the event, Paul and his wife decided to separate, which meant moving into another house and restarting his life...

Loss of confidence

For Paul, going to the rehabilitation clinic was useful for gaining knowledge about the heart, however he struggled to open up to anyone regarding his condition and situation.

“It was very informative as they told you about the mechanics of the heart, but I didn’t feel like I could discuss anything with anyone there, as firstly I didn’t want to admit I was sick and I was suffering from a severe loss of confidence.”

Nevertheless, he continued to move forward, and started doing 5 km runs with a friend, which he mostly walked at first, because he “found it a bit tough”.

A stent made the difference

When his doctor referred him for another treadmill test, it resulted in Paul going back for another angiogram.

A surgeon who looked at the results was concerned about the 40% blockage, and the next day Paul was fitted with a stent. This change to his treatment made a significant difference to his life.

Since then, Paul has completed a number of half-marathons, three full marathons and a bike race around Taupo. He also turned to a healthier diet and lost 25 kilograms. He still takes medication – a statin and aspirin – but thanks largely to the stent he says he feels “pretty good”. 


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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1 Comment

  • Tunahunter 14 February 2017

    Similar experience for me - lessons are, listen to your body, unerstand the signs, get the best advice