Debbie’s story

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After her heart attack, Debbie felt helpless and that there was no hope left for her. She decided to give cardiac rehab a go and hasn’t looked back since. Hear Debbie’s story. 

I'm Debbie and I’m recovering from double bypass surgery. At Christmas, I had something quite a stressful happen to me and I just went downhill and didn’t do very much exercise. Once I got out of that situation, I thought that’s it, I’m going to start exercising again.

Within three minutes of doing my walk, I started getting heartburn and I thought “Hmm what’s going on?”I kept walking and it kept doing it, so I sat down and rested and it went away. The next day I did the same thing and the same thing happened. Nothing seemed to make it any better. A couple of days later I was doing some shopping and I thought I’d better go to the Doctors and see if they could give me some stronger medication. The Doctor asked what my symptoms were and said that sounds like angina not indigestion.

I had an angiogram and they told me but I had a ninety percent blockage in my main artery and that I had days to live. The surgery took about six hours and it was awful, but it had to be done and it saved my life.

After the surgery, I went home and I found it really hard.  One day, I was rummaging through my drawers, getting my tablets out, and I found the Cardiac Rehabilitation flier and started flicking through it and I just thought “yeah why not,  I’ll give it a go.”

At the time I was feeling really down and I just didn't feel that there was anywhere to go. So I rang the rehab centre and went there and I’ve never looked back.

I was on a high. I really was. For the first time after my heart attack, I felt like there was hope. Before I started I thought there was nothing. I just thought this is it, this is as good as it gets.

But I was wrong and rehab showed me that’s not as good as it gets. The psychologist that came in was awesome and he spoke to us about sleep and how we're feeling and I just learned so much from him.

They also had somebody come in and talk to us about how to get physical again, what to eat, what not to eat. They also talked about sex with your partners and getting on with it. It was so informative because the one thing my husband had read on the cardiac recovery sheet was after three weeks you can become sexually active again. But he went the opposite way where he didn't want to go near me as he didn't want to hurt me. So discussing all that in a really comfortable session really helped us.

Rehab has helped me so much and changed me so much. Without it I think I’d still be sitting at home crying and depressed thinking this is it, this is what I'm going to be doing the rest of my life. But that’s not the case. It's absolutely not the case.

Rehab helps you move on. It gives you hope and it makes you feel better. If you talk to other people who are going through the same thing as you, you don't feel so alienated.

I'm living until I'm 95 and I'm going to die with a smile on my face. I've always said that since I was little and now I mean it, I really mean it.

I recently asked my surgeon “Do you reckon I could live to 95?” and he said “Absolutely.”

Learn how cardiac rehabilitation can help you, or find a cardiac rehabilitation service online. You can also call the Heart Foundation Helpline 1300 36 27 87 for help finding a service near you.