Heart Failure is the most common cause of death for men in both the UK and Spain, and the second most common for women. Gazette Editor Shaun Addison, who suffered a heart attack last June, recently chatted to two other Lanzarote residents who have recently been treated for heart attacks, to hear about their experiences.
What was the attack like?
Linda: It came from nowhere. I was just sitting having a coffee in my front room bothering nobody when, suddenly, I didn’t feel right. I thought it was wind, then I felt clammy and dizzy and I realised what was happening. I’d read a magazine article about strokes and heart attacks a few weeks earlier, and remembered it had described pain that goes up through your shoulder bone and into your jaw as typical of a heart attack, and that’s what I was feeling.
My husband called an ambulance and I was rushed straight to the Intensive Care Unit in Arrecife.
Bob: I was working in the bar on Sunday night, reached up and felt a pain in my back. I thought I’d trapped a nerve under my shoulder blade, but the pain got worse. I hadn’t seen a doctor for nearly 30 years, so I went to bed. I got through the next day, but on Tuesday my partner Emma decided to take me into Arrecife. Before she went down into the Gran Hotel carpark I was in so much pain I told her to leave me off by the road. She carried on with the car and I blacked out, hit the deck and lost a few teeth. Next thing I know, ambulance to intensive care. I was still saying “It’s just my back!”, but the doctor at the hospital said “Heart attacks aren’t like the ones you see on TV.”
Shaun: I woke up with a heavy feeling in my chest, dirty and toxic like a bad hangover. I showered, dressed, had coffee and went to pick a work colleague up in my car. Halfway to work I stopped at a garage because I really needed a bottle of water. Now the feeling was like the lump in the throat you get when you’re emotional, but I was also feeling a sort of dread. I had no idea what was happening. I got to work, staggered in, lay down and my colleague Judith immediately told me we were going to the health centre.
Linda, Bob and Shaun were all stabilised in intensive care on Lanzarote before being flown to the Dr Negrín Hospital in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to have stents fitted. All three were out of hospital and back on Lanzarote in a matter of days.
How were you treated in hospital?
Linda: My doctor in Arrecife was so wonderful. His name is Dr José Alberto Marcos y Ramos, and I was overwhelmed by his empathy and caring. At one point he massaged my feet and told me it was time for me to go to Gran Canaria and I started crying because I realised he wouldn’t come with me. But the care in Gran Canaria was excellent, too.
I did find some nasty bruises on my body afterwards, and I think that must have come from when I was being shifted from bed to bed, or loaded onto the helicopter. I don’t remember any rough treatment, though.
Bob: My attack happened at 10.30 am. I was in the helicopter by 1pm and they were operating by 3pm. It was very fast, very efficient.
Shaun: I was flown over at midday and operated at about 4pm. I watched the whole thing on a screen and chatted to the surgeon while it happened. I was shuffled between beds a few times over the next few days, but the staff were always friendly and caring.
What about aftercare?
Linda: I have no complaints. I get called in for check-ups regularly and my doctor looks after my prescriptions.
Bob: I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes shortly after my heart attack, and I haven’t really had a lot of input about that.
Shaun: I think they could improve this. My blood pressure was taken every hour when I was in hospital, but six months later I had to book an appointment myself to get it measured for the first time. Communication could be better.
Linda: I’ve stopped smoking and am watching my diet.
Bob: I own a bar, and I used to drink 25 pints a week, probably. Now I’m down to around five. I used to smoke 30-40 a day but haven’t touched a cigarette since. I do some running and I’ve lost 4 stone. I couldn’t be a vegetarian but I’m cutting down on red meat and enjoying a Mediterranean diet. I look different and I feel better than I have for years.
Shaun: I was fit before the attack and ate a pretty healthy diet, but I’ve started running as well as swimming, and have found the Couch to 5K programme really useful. I also fast fairly frequently – I quite enjoy that hungry feeling, and eat much less meat.
Linda: I’ve realised how lucky I am. My father died of a hemorrhage at the age of 43, so maybe weak arteries run in the family.
Bob: It’s changed my outlook and lifestyle completely. I’m getting fit, and last year my wife and I went to La Palma. It’s beautiful there, and there’s a waterfall right in the centre of the national park. My ambition is to walk there and see it.
Shaun: I thought I was indestructible. I thought I was like my granny, who smoked into her 70s and lived into her 90s, and I forgot that my three other grandparents died fairly young of heart failure. I thought I was exceptional, and I learned that I’m not.