From self made businessman to heart attack patient
Nick grew up in the East End of London. He was a skinny kid who was likely to be the centre of any mischief going on in the schoolyard. Nick hated school masters, academic achievers and people who were good at sports.
He left school early and after working in bars, supermarkets and garages, he moved to Australia.
He started his own business after working on the trams. Despite going broke twice he eventually found his feet and made good money. He moved to a nice area and started a family.
Nick loves drinking with the boys, and whenever there is a work conference, it stretches into a three day party.
Nick is a self made man who likes to joke, cut through any pretence and stay level headed.
Nick’s father had dropped dead of a heart attack in his seventies. Nick always said his father died ‘because he wanted too’. In those days nobody got divorced. You stayed in the same house and kept your mouth shut.
Growing up, Nick had noticed that his father’s lower legs were very dark. Looking back, wondered if his dad had circulation problems. Sure, his father smoked, roll your owns. But in those days everyone did.
However Nick’s father was slim, physically active, worked in the garden and walking everywhere. Few people in Nick’s parents generation had a car. In contrast, Nick by contrast is a typical baby boomer, growing up in the era of post war rebellion and excess.
Nick acknowledges that he eats too much, exercises too little, loves loud rock music and drives everywhere. His generation rebelled against their parent’s post-war thrift and sacrifice.
‘I still remember my Dad shovelling coal in the morning, so we could have heating when we got up for school. No way did I ever want to do that.’
A hostility towards ‘Swanky Doctors’
As soon as Nick made money and he spent it generously. He indulged his family, trained junior staff in his industry and did a volunteer work for a boys school camp. They combined some wild activities with army style discipline. There was a lot of physical activities.
One day Nick was asked to run along the beach with the kids.
Afterwards he collapsed and was so short of breath he couldn’t move for an hour. He sat on the beach struggling to breath and wondered if he was going to die.
Nick eventually recovered and dismissed the episode. But he drifted towards exercising even less and ignored his weight gain. Subconsciously Nick knew that exercise brought on shortness of breath. So he avoided it.
In his forties Nick was asked to have a blood pressure and cholesterol check, as part of his insurance cover. They both came back high. He was also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
The Doctor was a typical man from the wealthy area that Nick had moved into; slim, articulate, privately educated, a fitness fanatic and self-confident. His golf trophies were lined up on the shelf above his desk.
Nick hated him at first sight.
‘You need to lose weight and go on anti-cholesterol medication’ the Doctor remarked, when he saw Nick’s results.
‘You need to get drunk and get laid’, thought Nick.
He threw the script in the bin as he walked out the door.
The GP only gave Nick’s insurance company minimal details. Nick’s lack of compliance with recommended treatment was never followed up.
By his late fifties, Nick had a noticeable pot belly. He finally managed to quit smoking and figured that would be the end of his attempt at being ‘healthy’.
By now Nick was divorced and a new girlfriend. She was a nurse. As soon as they had started going out, she demanded he take an aspirin every day.
‘Don’t argue, just do it. You are a man, overweight and over fifty. ‘
She tried nagging him about his weight, but he told her to shut up. She managed to get him to eat salads occasionally.
Nick finally confesses he has a health problem when he can’t walk to the front gate without getting short of breath
One day Nick sat his girlfriend down and said ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’
‘I’m so short of breath on exertion; I can’t walk to the front gate without stopping to catch my breath. Now don’t make a fuss…’
His girlfriend immediately called a Doctor from a public clinic and made an appointment.
His girlfriend had heard Nick’s complaints about the local private school Doctor.
There are no snobs at this clinic’ his girlfriend assured him. ‘Just a blokey GP. You’ll like him. He tells jokes.’
The GP ordered an ECG. Then straight away called an ambulance. Nick had already had one heart attack and was heading for another one. Three days later he was having Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts at a large public hospital.
Nick was stunned by the speed and efficiency of the public health system.
‘I can’t believe how well organised you people are’.
Nick had always kept up private health insurance, but his nurse girlfriend would not let him go to a private hospital. ‘You need the best care, and that is in the public sector’ she said.
Nick reflects on his past health and future outcomes
When he recovered, Nick was sent home with medication to make his heart more regular and keep his cholesterol down. With his girlfriend nagging, he still takes his tablets.
However he left cardiac rehab after just three weeks –
Margarine are you kidding me? Why would I eat something that starts it’s life grey until it’s coloured, and contains trans fats?
However Nick read everything he could on the internet about heart disease.
The surgeon had rung his girlfriend after the operation, and told her plainly that even though the operation was a success, Nick still had ‘widespread vessel disease’.
Nick is now retired. He goes on regular holidays and enjoys his life. Every day matters, and he knows it.
When he sees people in the media complain about the public health system he thinks they are crazy.
He also realises that the severe shortness of breath on exertion that he had most of his adult life was an early signs of heart disease, and that it was his responsibility for not acting on it.
He has stayed off the cigarettes, takes vitamins, doesn’t drink as much as he did in the past, and sticks to home cooked meals.
I’m like my father. It’s genetics. I’ve just got to be sensible and take each day as it comes.
© Wikihospitals 2015