I thought my heart attack was just bad indigestion after speaking to 111

I had been advised to sit still, drink a mug of hot water and suck on a peppermint (Picture: Terrence ‘Woody’ Stone)

‘So when did you have your heart attack?’ asked the nurse examining the urgent scan of my chest.

I laughed and told her that I’d never had one.

‘Well you have,’ she said, before delivering the news that would change my life in a second. 

‘And half your left ventricle is dead.’

It was 2012 and I was none the wiser that the attack of chest pain – which 111 told me could be indigestion – six months previously had in fact been something far more sinister.

I had been advised to sit still, drink a mug of hot water and suck on a peppermint and as I relaxed, so did the pain.

When I first started experiencing the feeling, it was a sensation like I’d never had before.

I had no idea what it was but was worried, so I called 111, who told me it could be wind. 

I normally have a very high tolerance, but this was agony – I had none of the other ‘classic’ heart attack symptoms either.

When it happened again just a few weeks later, I did exactly the same and, despite the pain, I followed the advice I’d been given before. 

We’d just moved house and I was single-handedly putting a new roof on our new home at 70 years old; I certainly didn’t feel like someone who was potentially having repeated heart attacks.

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I have a completely new lease of life and will keep on making the most of it (Picture: Supplied)

I had been due for a check up at the doctors, but when the pain started again on my way to the GP surgery, I told the receptionist on arrival. She got a doctor instantly and he sent me for an immediate scan. 

It was after this that I was told that these supposed episodes of indigestion and wind were in fact heart attacks.

I was so confused – I’d had ECGs in the past at check-ups and everything had been fine. I’d been generally healthy all my life and barely had had a need for a doctor.

I saw a specialist and had an angiogram to look at what state my heart was in – it felt completely surreal.

There was even more bad news – not only had I unwittingly been experiencing heart attacks over six months, I needed a triple heart bypass. My veins were all clogged up and something needed to be done.

I felt bloody awful. There was a three month wait for the triple bypass and in those months my active life grinded to a halt.

Up until that point I’d been doing woodturning since I was just 11 years old and had been spending most of my life in my ‘man cave’ workshop at the bottom of the garden creating.

I only found out six months later that I’d had a heart attack (Picture: Terrence ‘Woody’ Stone)

I went from being active to just sitting in a chair all day, doing nothing. I was having angina attacks – chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart – eight times a day. Just putting my shoes on would cause an attack. My life’s passion, woodturning, was completely off the table because it involved moving around too much.

I assumed I’d never go back to it and as far as I was concerned, my world was over. After 70 years of creating, selling and teaching this was the end.

I sold everything in my workshop. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

However, the triple bypass went better than I could have expected, as painful as it was. I told my wife that if I knew how much it was going to hurt, I would have refused to have it done, but in reality, it absolutely changed my life.

I was allowed to return to woodturning – I started out with a small machine (my wife didn’t like the idea of me going straight for the big items) and I begrudgingly started doing pens and other small items – a far cry from the huge three or foot wide bowls I was making for restaurants, but I was back.

Now, 10 years on since my operation, it’s something I still love doing at almost 80 years old and I’m celebrating my extra decade of life by trying to say thank you to those who saved me.

I’m raising £10k for the British Heart Foundation in honour of the help I received and hopefully the sales of my woodturning will help others receive the same treatment. 

I have a completely new lease of life and will keep on making the most of it. 

The work the BHF does is fantastic – I thought my life was over 10 years ago and here I am still living my passions. Retirement is on the cards every week – but I’ll keep going for as long as I can. The enjoyment keeps me going – I’m helping others. 

I’ve always been deeply factual: if my time’s up, it’s up. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that life is to be enjoyed, not endured.

And I’ve had a whole extra 10 years to enjoy it thanks to my heart surgery – what a miracle that is.

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The British Heart Foundation Heart Hero Awards 2022

A BHF Heart Hero, with Metro.co.uk as its media partner this year, can be anyone from a healthcare professional doing exceptional work, to a young person living with heart disease that has shown incredible courage and determination, to an inspiring fundraiser who has found creative ways to help fund research.

Those shortlisted will be invited to an awards ceremony hosted by Vernon Kay at Glaziers Hall in London on December 1, when the winners will be announced.

You can register to watch the celebration online through a live stream on the evening from 8pm. Guest celebrities will be announcing some of the winners.

Judging of the categories is now complete with Scottish footballer Scott Allan and TV and radio presenter Will Njobvu among this year’s celebrity judges.

But the Young Heart Hero and CPR Hero categories remain open to nominations throughout the year.

The awards ceremony raises awareness of the continued need for funding for the pioneering research that is turning science fiction into reality, and providing hope for more than seven million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory conditions.

To find out more about the categories or to make a nomination, visit the British Heart Foundation website.


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