Peter’s story

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After his heart attack Peter felt incredibly demoralised. He discusses how rehab helped him to recover both mentally and physically and also educated him on how to lead a more healthy life.

My name is Peter and I came to rehabilitation program after suffering a heart attack. Initially I wasn't sure what it was, but we soon found out that it was a severe blockage of all the major arteries in my heart.

The night before I had quoted jaw pain, which I thought was a toothache and then the next morning we went for a walk and I was breathless. My wife is a doctor and suggested we do an ECG. We sent that to a friend and the friend said “you should go to hospital straightaway.” Once we were admitted we had a test, called a troponin test, which shows damage to the heart. The level was high and so we were admitted for an angiogram. Had the angiogram and instead of a quick exit it was “sorry you'll have to come back and have the heart bypass.”

The operation was very invasive and in my experience, and I think the experience of other people, is that it's a very large physical shock to your body. That’s why I needed the rehabilitation program. It's been a wonderful experience. It's been a very, very supportive experience. After the heart event, you find that you're incredibly weak, incredibly tired and because of that you become very demoralized.

Part of the great thing about rehab was that people were talking about their experiences, they were becoming humorous about their experiences.

It can be a very psychologically devastating process and immediately you’re part of a group of other people who are undergoing the same thing.

You can see quite a dramatic change between the time when people enter the program and six weeks later when they were regaining their strength. They have a group to belong to and people talk to. The process of recovery is going to be quite long and it has to be slow and you can't accelerate that .A lot of people who are younger want to get out on the track and get moving again but you can't do that any faster than your body will allow. That's probably one of the biggest things to come to grips with.

There's also information on diet, portion size ,monitoring your own health and things to avoid, all the components of living a healthy life - it's quite a learning curve.

Because the operation is just one step, if you want to really improve your life you need good quality information, you need psychological support and you need the theoretical understanding of how to lead a more healthy life.

Most people don't understand that and that's part of the shock of having that condition.

I know that I'm as good as I possibly can be and I'm very grateful to be alive. It's pretty clear that I was close to dying and that gives you a bit of a different view on life. So I'm very happy to be alive, I'm very grateful to the rehab people, to the surgeons and to the nurses, who were excellent. They were all excellent in their care.

Learn how cardiac rehabilitation can help you, or find a cardiac rehabilitation service online. You can also call the Heart Foundation Helpline 13 11 12 for help finding a service near you.