Chris Wood’s Story
I had, what must have been my first, heart attack at around 1pm on Sunday 15th August 2021. It was exactly one week after my 42nd birthday.
I phoned 111 two days later on the Tuesday afternoon after going through, what I now realise, were classic symptoms of a heart attack. Not the stereotypical image on TV of someone clutching their chest in agony and immediately knowing it was a heart attack. From Sunday to Tuesday I had experienced what I thought was heartburn, then on Monday night I assumed I had COVID – hot sweats, violent sickness, dizziness, numb jaw, tingly fingers. By Tuesday morning this was just a dull ache in my chest. 111 phoned me an ambulance which arrived within minutes. The ambulance team undertook an ECG which showed no abnormalities. They advised me to go to A&E, advice I almost dismissed until they told me to get in the ambulance and they would take me to Good Hope Hospital anyway.
I was able to walk and was led to the ambulance cohort room where I stayed for 3 hours (it was busy…) – no fuss, no urgency, no problem. I was then transferred to an A&E cubicle where my bloods were taken, and I was talked to by a nice Junior Doctor (it was August…) who was unsure what was wrong. All other vital signs were fine. He advised it was probably reflux but to go for a chest Xray in any case. While waiting outside Xray following this I saw a nurse running down the corridor and thinking ‘oh no someone’s in trouble’ – alas she was looking for me. My blood results had come back, and they were frantically trying to find me between A&E and x-ray. I was wheeled down to corridor into resus where a group of nurses and an A&E consultant were waiting for me and I was then informed I had suffered a heart attack – this was 11pm and almost 60 hours since I had suffered my first mild ‘heart attack’. Immediately I was wired up, tubed up, and medicated. I arrived on the Coronary Care Unit at 2am. I would find out the following day how bad it was, but I had been stabilised.
The following morning after a strange but quietly peaceful night in a single room, I was blue lighted at what felt like 100 miles an hour to Heartlands Hospital where I was prepared for surgery in the Cath Lab. I had an angioplasty and was double stented in my right coronary artery. It was 99% blocked so the amazing consultant was fortunate to reopen it. All of this while I was awake. My abiding memory of this was relief when it was over and realising his choice of music during surgery was Celine Dion – My heart will go on – I couldn’t make it up.
I was discharged on the Friday where, once home, I could only manage a slow 5-minute walk before being absolutely wiped out. I later found out, as with many heart attacks and starvation of oxygen, my heart is permanently damaged, and I will be on medication for the rest of my life. I am, however, alive and have a second chance. I was extremely lucky, and the probable causes could be several things which will never be definitively understood – I thought I was fit, healthy and I exercised regularly. I never thought at my age I had even the slightest risk or thought of a heart attack. It was, and still is, a massive shock I am still coming to terms with. If I had not have gone to hospital the blockage would have got worse and more than likely I would have gone into Cardiac Arrest at some point
I did not see or understand the symptoms. I would never have phoned 999. I questioned the ambulance crew’s advice to go to A&E. I thought I was going to walk out of A&E having wasted their time. These people saved my life, without a doubt. I was one of the 70% of heart attack victim survivors.
The afterwards – How I wanted to help others and give back something of my experience
I had 5 months off work in total while I recovered and rehabilitated, both physically and mentally. Initially I really struggled living life an hour at a time to a day at a time, to realising I wanted and needed to give something back to make others aware this could happen to them. And particularly the fact this is not something that happens to older people.
I changed my diet, my outlook on life and exercised again regularly. Running has become my new passion. I joined a global amateur and professional athlete group, Cardiac Athletes, where I found others who had overcome similar situations and gone back to exercise to improve their heart conditions. I found and still find this group incredibly helpful, motivating, and inspirational.
In May 2022 I came across an advert for a free CPR Course in Sutton Coldfield – CPR Counts. I booked on it, attended and found it incredibly helpful, educational and, in parts, quite emotional. I learned about CPR and what to do should I find someone unresponsive, heart attack symptoms (the emotional bit), how to deal with choking, and how to identify and use Defibrillators. All organised very well by Malcolm, Dawn and Barbara, and delivered very professionally by Mike. This was exactly the type of course I needed and I realised I wanted to help support the cause and the team. So, I have signed up to doing this and look forward to continuing to support Malcolm and the team – who all do a wonderful job by giving up their free time to organise and deliver these courses, and they have their own personal stories to tell as to why they do it. I would like as many people as possible, young and old, to sign up and undertake these course as they could prove invaluable when least expected.
I ran the 8.5 mile Royal Sutton Fun Run on Sunday 29th May 2022 (the day after my CPR Counts course) with my 8 year old son Ben to celebrate my recovery, raise money for the British Heart Foundation, and also, very importantly, raise awareness of the symptoms of heart attacks and how all of us can do our part by having CPR and Defibrillator training to potentially save the lives of those having Cardiac Arrests. I also wanted to raise awareness and ‘tackle heart attack myths’ – NHS England » NHS launches lifesaving campaign to tackle heart attack myths. A heart attack can happen at any age, most are not fully aware of the symptoms, and to phone 999 immediately. It is a lot more common at my age and even younger than people think, and I have met many inspirational people who have given me advice, support and confidence from being in similar, and often more serious, heart-related conditions.
CPR Counts teaches this awareness. This is why it matters to me and why I want to be part of it.
Further information and support….