I joined a heart support group
Paul1, 65, has recently retired from running his own IT business. After a heart attack eight years ago, he was inspired to adopt a new social circle.
‘For months, I put the pain in my chest down to indigestion. I was fit and healthy, I played tennis every week – I wasn’t exactly your “typical” heart attack candidate.
‘It was only one Monday morning, when I climbed the stairs at work and the pain started to creep down my arm, that I admitted it might be more serious and took myself to A&E. Like lightning, I was on a trolley having an ECG and, within three hours, they said I’d had a heart attack. Two weeks later, I had three stents inserted into my plaque-blocked artery.
‘At first, we were all in shock. My family and I just couldn’t get our heads around it all. I was in denial and at my Cardiac Rehab sessions, I consistently tried to run before I could walk, even though they warned me that exercising too hard, too fast, could cause more damage.
My turning point
‘It was only once I had “graduated” from rehab that things started to change. I heard about a local heart support group from friends I’d made during my sessions. My wife and I started attending their social events and monthly group walks. Before we knew it, we had a whole new social life. I got more benefit from my new friendships than I got from one-to-one counselling. Without me realising it, my new community helped me overcome the deep-seated fears I’d been carrying around – that my heart attack meant the end of my life. I realised it was, in fact, the beginning. My new life started here.
‘I cut down my work to three days a week and soon became a committee member at the club; then the patient representative for our local hospital cardiology team. It’s become a huge part of my life. I’m heavily involved in helping other people who’ve been through heart attacks, and I feel much happier and healthier myself as a result.
‘Try to make contact with others who’ve been through the same experiences as you. Talking to people who understand what you’ve been through can really help.’
FIND OUT MORE:
Find out more about getting support after a heart attack
1Names have been changed