He was fit, active and in good health, married and a father of 3 young boys, when he suddenly suffered a heart attack.
No one saw it coming. There were no signs. No symptoms. No known risk factors.
No family history. But that didn’t stop the heart attack…
He recovered and is alive today to watch his 3 young sons grow up. But most Australians are not so lucky. This is Pat’s story in his words.
I was watching television one night at home, just a normal Saturday night, and I started to feel an odd, cold sensation in my chest. I thought perhaps it might be just indigestion, but it wouldn’t go away.
The pain kept me up all night. I tried walking around to get comfortable. I wasn’t necessarily panicking, but the next morning, after next to no sleep, I was still in a lot of pain. I spoke to my wife about the pain and the continual cold sensation, and we decided I should go straight to the Emergency Room.
At the hospital I was told that I had suffered a heart attack – they had found a restriction in one of my arteries. My wife Bridget and I were in absolute shock; I had no signs or symptoms and enjoyed a healthy lifestyle. The instant horror for me was what could have happened if I hadn’t gone to the hospital and sought treatment that morning. How long would it have been before another, more serious heart attack? 6 months? One year?
Life can change so quickly, in the blink of an eye. It was a terrifying experience to know that this heart attack was brewing slowly for quite some time, and I had no idea.
I am a proud Dad of three little boys who are 4, 6 and 8. The thought that I may not have been able to be there for them, and the idea of leaving their lives so abruptly with no warning, with no goodbyes, just absolutely breaks my heart. Because of their age, the boys didn’t quite understand what had happened. I am very involved with their day-to-day lives; I pick them up from school every day, and I take them to tennis, swimming and piano lessons. The boys and I have such a strong bond, and they would be devastated if anything ever happened to me, especially with no warning.
I was in hospital for 4 days. I had to undergo heart surgery to insert a stent in my artery. I kept thinking, What if I didn’t come home? What if I left my 3 boys without a father, and my family without financial support?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death of Australians. Coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a build-up of plaque. According to the Heart Foundation, in 2018 on average 2 people died of heart disease each hour. This equates to 48 Australians dying every single day. I was vaguely aware of the drastic statistics around heart disease, but never thought I would have to worry about it, or that I would become one of those statistics.
Bridget and I also knew nothing about heart disease before my heart attack because neither of us have had any family history of it.
The heart attack has made us more conscious about what we eat and our lifestyle, however because I had no common symptoms, the doctors think that it may have been stress induced, so together as a family we have tried to lead a simpler, less stressful life.
The terrifying truth is, like me, many Australians don’t know that they have coronary heart disease until they have a heart attack – which can be life-threatening – or angina (a squeezing pressure, heaviness or tightness in your chest). You may not know that you’re living with growing plaque build-up in the walls of your coronary arteries simply because you have no symptoms.
I was physically active in my day job and played tennis 3 times a week. I ate healthily, and didn’t drink or smoke. I also don’t have high blood pressure or cholesterol. And thank goodness I didn’t, otherwise who knows what the outcome could have been.
I returned to work about a week after the heart attack, as I wanted to do what was familiar, and I think getting back to a routine helped in my recovery. My employer was really supportive and kept me on light duties with minimal stress for the first 3 months I was back.
I am forever grateful for the revolutionary work being done at QIMR Berghofer. This work is changing and saving lives for Australians with heart disease. These scientists are the real heroes; they work extraordinarily hard to find treatments for people like me so that we can continue to live our lives as normally as possible. We owe a great deal to them, personally and as a community for the work that they do.
I know how lucky I am that I was able to have successful surgery and treatment and return home to my wife and boys. How many don’t get that chance; their lives ripped apart in an instant, with no warning, no goodbyes, no ‘I love you’s’ …
I’ve realised how quickly life can change, and how important health and medical research is to the future and wellbeing of our families and communities.
100% of your donation goes directly to research at QIMR Berghofer, which funds projects such as Associate Professor James Hudson’s heart research. Funding leads to discoveries in our laboratories, which lead to treatments and cures that create a healthy future for you and your loved ones.