Getting real about matters of the heart
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.’’
Sandy Hirst speaks on the experience of having a heart attack.