The Rebore Club doesn’t want any more new recruits thanks. All the members have had heart attacks, with stents inserted to ‘rebore’ their arteries. Now they’ve got some words of wisdom for others.
Heart attacks are the result of an interruption of blood flow to the heart muscle – an artery blockage that’s occurred suddenly. And, for many, this can can come on ‘out of the blue’.
“For about half of the people who have a heart attack, the attack presents as their first symptom,” says local cardiologist Dr Sean Latouf.
“People can have very nasty heart artery narrowing with no symptoms because the heart muscle has an enormous amount of reserve to cope with reduced blood flow. It’s only when something happens, and that reduced blood flow is converted to a critical narrowing or complete blockage, that the symptoms develop.”
The question is, what’s avoidable and what isn’t? An individual’s likelihood of having a heart attack is dependant on their risk factors for the development of heart artery disease. These risk factors can be divided into non-modifiable (for example age, family history), and modifiable (for example smoking, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and a sedentary lifestyle).
“I’d vomited a couple of times but had no idea I was having a heart attack – I thought it was just a bad pie I’d had for lunch.”
– Dwayne Payne
“People need to be working on their modifiable risk factors in order to prevent them from developing heart disease,” Dr Latouf says.
“It’s also important to be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack, which generally include crushing chest pain, profuse sweating, nausea or vomiting and shortness of breath. That would be your classic heart attack but you can also have a heart attack without chest pains, with all of that shortness of breath and sweating and nausea but just with neck pain or intense stomach pain.
“If you have a symptom that severe you should think heart attack first up and get to the hospital quickly.”
Executive Director of Premise, Pat Brady protested the whole way to hospital that he was fine when, in fact, he was having a heart attack.
“I had a number of warning signs while exercising leading up to the event, which I ignored and put down to indigestion,” Pat says.
“When it happened, I was participating in a corporate Outrigger Day and got a very tight chest in the middle of a race. There wasn’t any pain – it just felt like someone was giving me a bear hug. I now know that a feeling like that needs to be taken seriously.”
Mark Franzmann, who runs a local plumbing company, also wrote off his symptoms as indigestion.
“It was a Saturday morning after I’d finished exercising and my wife and I went out for breakfast,” Mark recalls. “While getting in the car I had a large pain that felt like someone had jumped on my chest while I was lying on the ground. I thought it was something I’d eaten for breakfast and I didn’t think anything of it. I went home, read the paper and did my yard work.”
Mark’s wife booked him in to see a GP, who referred him to a cardiologist, who booked Mark straight into hospital, explaining that he’d had a heart attack.
“I was pretty shocked,” Mark says. “I had four stents installed in my artery and, once I was home, I had to slow down with work and learn to manage stress better. My cardiologist said my artery was totally blocked and he doesn’t know how I survived.”
Another heart attack survivor lucky to be alive is mine worker Dwayne Payne who, like Pat and Mark, blamed food for his heart attack symptoms.
“I was on night shift at the mine where I work as the supervisor of the pit operation and, at around 3am, had just done my rounds of the pit and returned to my office when I felt sick,” Dwayne recalls. “I’d vomited a couple of times but had no idea I was having a heart attack – I thought it was just a bad pie I’d had for lunch.”
Fortunately for Dwayne, when the site nurse attended his room, it didn’t take him long to work out that Dwayne was having a heart attack. He contacted the Flying Doctor and, before Dwyane knew it, he was in an operating room having a stent put in.
“The cardiologist told me that, if I hadn’t gotten the correct medical help, I would’ve died that day,” Dwayne says.
“I had a number of warning signs while exercising leading up to the event, which I ignored and put down to indigestion.”
The same is true for Mt Louisa resident Robert Ford, whose family and neighbour Mick (a paramedic) acted quickly on the day Bob had his latest heart attack.
“My daughter-in-law Kim had just asked me if I’d like a cup of tea. When I stopped replying mid-sentence, she looked back to see me with my mouth wide open and my eyes rolled back in my head,” Bob says.
Bob’s family started CPR compressions and ran to get their neighbour Mick, who raced down and took over. When the ambulance arrived, it took three shocks with defibrillator paddles to get Bob’s pulse back.
“I didn’t realise what was happening until I woke up in hospital after having the stent,” says Bob, whose major heart attack occurred on 30 May 2017.
“I had a few minor heart attacks over the years in the lead-up (where the signs were pains in the shoulder, an aching jaw and shortness of breath) but nothing like what I had on May 30.”
Bob is now on the road to recovery, trying harder than ever to do the right thing by eating well and exercising. I’ve lost 14 kilos in the last three months and am no longer classified as being a diabetic,” he says. “I was used to eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and I love fatty food and deep-fried takeaway but now they’re in the past.”
“You must share your family history with your doctor. I was 60 when I had my episode but my apparent fitness had masked a deeper problem.”
– John Galloway
When construction manager John Galloway developed chest pains and shortness of breath as he was taking part in a mountain bike ride at Pallarenda he knew what it was (he recognised the symptoms from his first aid experience) but there was no-one around…
“I was on my own with no mobile reception and quickly fading, so I turned around and rode back to where my wife was,” John says.
John’s wife dialled 000 and he was at the Emergency Department of the Townsville Hospital within 20 minutes of the ambulance arriving at the scene.
After having two stents installed, John was on the road to recovery.
“My lifestyle has always been fairly active, I’ve never smoked and I have a good diet so the heart attack came as a real shock to me,” John says. “But once I shared my family history with my cardiologist he said ‘Well that’s your warning sign right there!’ You must share your family history with your doctor. I was 60 when I had my episode but my apparent fitness had masked a deeper problem that could’ve been diagnosed with a scan of my coronary arteries. My siblings have all had the scan and fortunately are all clear.”
Acting on advice from his cardiologist, John no longer engages in activities that put too much strain on his heart.
“Monitoring your heart rate is the best way to do this but your body also tells you when you’re working too hard,” John says. “I still walk and ride the mountain bike… but no hills!”