Hi I’m John and in March 2016 I suffered a massive heart attack.
It was something that I was not expecting being a 39 year old man and when it happened it changed my life.
To really tell you this story well I should perhaps head back to January 2016 when the indicators that I was heading for trouble were beginning to make themselves known.
A high pressured career
In the 18 years running up to my heart attack, I worked in the world of civil engineering for one of the country’s largest construction companies. In my role as a bid manager, I was responsible for securing new construction projects for the company and, as you would imagine, this could be a extremely stressful position at times but this was something I was unaware of at the time as I seemed to thrive on the challenge.
With each project I was tasked with securing, the responsibilities assigned to my role within the company increased. The pressure to be seen to be performing at 100% and reaching targets and goals was huge and unknowingly to me it was having an effect on my health the signs of which began to appear early in 2016.
The signs were minor at first. I began to get the occasional short spell of dizziness accompanied by a dull pain / pressure in between my shoulder blades. At first I put these symptoms down to spending too many hours hunched over my laptop.
Towards the end of January, these niggles became more frequent leading me to think that a massage may solve the problem. Years ago I used to play rugby and I thought that perhaps a few injuries from the past were playing up and a massage would free up the problem and I would be fine again. After a few sessions with a sports massage therapist, the pain and dizziness seemed to subside and I resumed my normal routine.
Lacking in energy
In February my wife grew more concerned about my twinges especially as I began to get extremely tired very quickly when doing even undemanding tasks around the house.
In my 20’s I was a very fit and active guy. I played rugby, went swimming three times each week and walked and cycled everywhere but when I turned 30 I began to progress up the corporate ladder. With each promotion I was beginning to let these healthy activities fall by the wayside as I devoted more and more time to my career.
Tiredness wasn’t a symptom I had ever heard of being connected to heart problems and if I had I would of paid a visit to my GP, however, I put it down to not eating properly and overwork. I had put on weight over the past nine years due to my regular consumption of airport food, sugary snacks and takeaways thanks to many late nights in the office and the decrease in my physical activity. I decided to go on a diet and try to get some exercise.
As March got underway, I started to lose weight by eating better and by opting for taking the stairs instead of using the office lift but the symptoms still persisted.
Time to visit the doctor?
Now at this point most sensible people would immediately consult their GP to find out what on earth is wrong with them and how it can be remedied and I agree that is a much more sensible approach to the one that I took.
My team were in the final stages of pitching for a project that would secure the jobs of hundred’s if not thousand’s of people and I decided that I would hold off taking time out of work to visit my doctor until we had secured the contract. This was to prove to be an awful mistake not just for myself but to the soon to be shocked people around me.
My heart attack
The memories of the initial moments as it happened will stay with me for life. It was time for our regular Monday morning team meeting and we all gathered in the meeting room treating ourselves to coffee and the traditional choccy biscuits.
I sat down in my chair and began to organise my stack of papers and folders and realised that I had broken out in a cold sweat. “Ahh the office flu has finally claimed me” I told myself as I mopped by brow dry.
Next the dizziness returned and I began to feel quite ill. I began to get up out of my chair to excuse myself from the meeting and get some fresh air but unfortunately I left it too late for all in the room. I suddenly and without warning vomited over the meeting room table. Just as people proclaimed their understandable surprise and disgust, I then felt a huge weight bear down on my chest. The heart attack hit.
I can’t say that I remember too much about what happened next as it was just a blur of activity. My brave colleagues instantly took action to save my life and soon paramedics were whisking me away to A&E. I won’t go too much into the hospital experience as I am not knowledgeable enough to cover it all with any degree of medical accuracy but needless to say my condition was assessed, stabilised and a coronary stent was soon inserted into an artery leading to my heart saving my life.
Walking to recovery
While I was recovering, I was informed by the many medical professionals supporting me that I had to change the way I was living my life otherwise I might not be lucky enough to survive another heart attack as mine had been massive. With the help and support of my family and friends I began to make big changes to my lifestyle and my outlook on life.
I decided to take up walking again and every day I headed out for a short stroll around the streets surrounding my city home. As every week passed, I began to feel healthier and this was confirmed when I attended my regular health assessments. After four months of regular walking and living a less pressured and sensible approach life, I had managed to lose weight and improve my health significantly. Walking was making a big difference to my well-being.
Walking was not only improving my physical health but it was also doing a good job of undoing the toll that nearly a decades worth of pressure, stress and anxiety had taken on my mental health. I was really thankful when Walk Fife’s Sue let me know about this website and it’s wonderful community of people sharing their walking routes online and it really encouraged me to keep walking.
So where am I today?
In March 2018, as I sit here writing this article, I am perhaps the healthiest and happiest I have ever been in my entire adult life.
After my heart attack I made some major changes to my lifestyle beginning by resigning from my job. The company, to be honest, were incredibly supportive during my recovery but I needed a change of pace and I was fortunate to find a role in a small Scottish venture that helps to support community projects and businesses.
The next change came when my incredible wife and I sold our house in the city and we moved to a small and peaceful village nestled in the heart of the Kingdom of Fife. Moving into the countryside increased our interest in walking and it really has made a tremendous difference to our lives.
Today, I am one of the volunteers responsible for the running of Walk Fife and I hope that by sharing my story that I will be able to encourage others to take a different and healthier approach to life and get out there and explore the Kingdom of Fife on foot.
Thank you all very much for sharing your walking routes and helping me to recover from something that has been truly life changing in many ways.
John – Walk Fife