Get­ting real about mat­ters of the heart

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Our District News - RICHARD MAYS

In Jan­uary 2016 Sandy Hirst suf­fered a heart at­tack. At 52, she was one year shy of when her mother had died - the re­sult of a heart at­tack.

The Feild­ing Se­nior Leisure and Learn­ing Cen­tre co-or­di­na­tor said both her par­ents had heart trou­bles, so hav­ing her own heart prob­lem wasn’t com­pletely un­ex­pected.

How­ever, the mag­ni­tude and sud­den­ness of Hirst’s ’’prob­lem’’ took her com­pletely by sur­prise.

‘‘One of the things is that women [in par­tic­u­lar] don’t of­ten pay at­ten­tion to the symp­toms. We tend to to put them down to some­thing else.’’

Prior to hav­ing her heart at­tack Hirst said she was healthy and didn’t have any of the usual warn­ing symp­toms of­ten as­so­ci­ated with heart at­tack.

‘‘There was no short­age of breath, no chest dis­com­fort, no pain, un­til six days out [from the at­tack].’’

Spread­ing pain in her fin­gers and el­bows she at­trib­uted to her rheuma­toid arthri­tis, a con­di­tion she had man­aged since 2000.

‘‘My lips had taken on a blueish tinge, but I thought that was a sign of in­di­ges­tion.’’

Look­ing back, Hirst re­alised that the pain she ex­pe­ri­enced had been dif­fer­ent, while at times she had felt un­usu­ally fa­tigued.

‘‘I didn’t make the con­nec­tion. I put it down to anx­i­ety.’’

On the evening of the at­tack, she had felt dizzy and nau­seous, had started to sweat, and felt an un­fa­mil­iar pres­sure build­ing in­side her ribs.

She per­suaded her hus­band Steve to call an am­bu­lance, but by the time she was hooked up in­side the ve­hi­cle, the pain had be­come huge.

‘‘The am­bos were won­der­ful, but even at that point I didn’t re­alise what was hap­pen­ing.’’

Re­cov­ered, and this year with the sup­port of Manawatu/ Mid Cen­tral Heart Foun­da­tion heart health ad­vo­cate Sally Dar­ragh, Hirst has set up a monthly Heart Sup­port Group at the Bowen St, Feild­ing cen­tre.

It’s for peo­ple who have have had a heart at­tack, have heart disease, or atrial fib­ril­la­tion.

‘‘Ev­ery­one has very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences After my heart at­tack I had a real need to talk to oth­ers who had been through the same thing. When we get to­gether the con­ver­sa­tions just flow,’’ Hirst said.

‘‘It may be a cliche, but ev­ery day is a gift, and if I can help bring some bright­ness into some­one’s day.’’

PHOTO: WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Sandy Hirst speaks on the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing a heart at­tack.

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