I am
Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Dan was six minutes into his treadmill session when his heart stopped beating.

After a heart-stopping treadmill session, Daniel’s eyes were opened to the fragility our hearts, and life. 

Daniel is an HR specialist who lives in Onkaparinga Hills, south of Adelaide, with his wife and three kids. A lifelong footy fanatic – as a player and coach – he’s also an active gym-goer and likes to keep fit and healthy.

Daniel’s heart story 

I’m confused and in the back of an ambulance. I have no idea how I got here. Last I remember, I’d started my usual workout at my gym – something I’ve loved doing for quite some time – and was feeling terrific. It was only later I learned that six minutes into a treadmill session, my heart suddenly stopped beating.  

I was a fit and healthy 35-year-old with no history of heart problems, yet here I was, the unfortunate victim (but fortunate survivor) of a cardiac arrest. Lucky for me that not only was one of the gym’s trainers quickly on hand to render first aid when I hit the deck, but working out beside me were two surf life-savers and a nurse. Together they commenced CPR and hooked me up to the automated external defibrillator (AED) that the gym kept on premises for just this eventuality. My angels! 

Then I was in hospital. Despite a barrage of tests, the medical team couldn’t find anything with my heart’s electrical function that might’ve caused it to stop beating. It certainly wasn’t because of strenuous exercise – I was told that it could just as well have happened while I was asleep or, worse still, while I was driving. I’d had no symptoms and no family history of heart rhythm problems. It was a mystery.  

To be on the safe side, they fitted me with an ICD – an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator – a little insurance against future heart rhythm problems.  

But that wasn’t the end of my story. To my surprise, while investigating the problem doctors found another issue with my heart: my right coronary artery was half blocked. I was diagnosed with coronary heart disease and told that I was at increased risk of a heart attack.  

The cardiac arrest and the blockage in my artery weren’t related, I learned. A cardiac arrest is an ‘electrical’ problem, while blockages in blood vessels are more to do with the heart’s ‘plumbing’. I therefore couldn’t help feeling at least a little lucky that we discovered the blockage when we did, before it caused a heart attack. They quickly fixed the blocked artery with a stent. That experience made me realise the importance of a thoughtful diet and keeping my cholesterol levels in check.
To say that not finding the cause of my cardiac arrest is frustrating is an understatement, but I learned to deal with my concerns thanks to some terrific support networks.
The cardiac rehabilitation program at Noarlunga hospital was a big help, and so too was the Heart Foundation and the various social networks out there. It turns out there are lots of people who’ve been in my shoes. The advice I found on how to manage my mental health has been invaluable. 

Three months after my cardiac arrest I was back in the gym, full of confidence and determined that my heart event wouldn’t affect my love of exercise. That was four years ago. We probably never will find the cause but I figure that keeping myself healthy and happy is what’s most important to me, and to my wife and three kids. 

That said, my experience did awaken in me an urge to help others become more aware of how fragile one’s heart is. To begin with, knowing that the gym’s AED saved my life – along with trainer Mel and the other three good Samaritans, of course – I’m now an avid advocate for increased funding for AEDs. I’m currently working on a Bill with the South Australian Government that hopefully will see these life-saving machines rolled out more widely.

Secondly, the incidental tests that revealed my blockage showed me how easy it would be to overlook a major heart health issue, simply by presuming everything was okay. Fit blokes in their thirties don’t have heart problems, right? I learned that just because you have no conventional risk factors and no symptoms, doesn’t mean your heart is in perfect health.

In short, my advice is to get a heart health check. Don’t put it off. 

It’s a message I’ve been promoting through my gym, too. Only recently we held a fundraiser and I’m proud to say that $800 will soon be on its way to the Heart Foundation, so they can keep up their work in the fight against Australia’s biggest killer, coronary heart disease. 

Daniel’s one piece of advice  

See your doctor and find out about your heart-disease risk factors. Do it for the ones you love.  


Discover more heart stories  

You might also be interested in

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Alicia Philipatos was three days old when her heart condition was diagnosed...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

The Heart Foundation has designed a series of emails to help people who've had heart attacks (and their loved ones) through their recovery....

Heart health information in your language

Heart health information in your language

A selection of heart health information brochures in a range languages...

Heart stories

Heart stories

Heart stories

Stories of hope from Australian men and women fighting heart disease....

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Explore our guide for driving and heart attack recovery. ...

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. ...

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Got a question about your heart?...

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Research Directory

Research Directory

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

And the heartache lasts a lifetime. But you can help the Heart Foundation fund life-saving research to keep more families together....

Healthy Food Access Tasmania

Healthy Food Access Tasmania

Healthy Food Access Tasmania

We've been working on several projects with local governments across Tasmania, big and small....

Driving Best Practice CVD Prevention in a Post-COVID World

Driving Best Practice CVD Prevention in a Post-COVID World

Driving Best Practice CVD Prevention in a Post-COVID World

Sydney Swans join with the Heart Foundation to give Aussie hearts a sporting chance

Sydney Swans join with the Heart Foundation to give Aussie hearts a sporting chance

Sydney Swans join with the Heart Foundation to give Aussie hearts a sporting chance

Media release - 7 July 2021...

For professionals: Guidelines for acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

For professionals: Guidelines for acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

Australian  guidelines  for  prevention, diagnosis and  management of  acute  rheumatic  fever and  rheumatic  heart  disease ...

Endorsement of externally developed clinical resources

Endorsement of externally developed clinical resources

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

2020 Strategic Grant Recipients

Improving heart health for all Australians

Improving heart health for all Australians

Improving heart health for all Australians

Guidelines for the assessment and management of Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk ...

Apricot & pecan muffin bars

Apricot & pecan muffin bars

Apricot & pecan muffin bars

30 minutes
Serves 8

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Find heart healthy baking recipes ...

Nutrition Position Statements

Nutrition Position Statements

Nutrition Position Statements

The Heart Foundation’s food and nutrition position statements have been developed to keep you informed about our position on a range of nutrition issues relating to heart health. ...

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

10 ways to get the right balance of fats 

Getting the right balance of fats in your diet can improve your heart health....

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

With immediate help a cardiac arrest can be survived. Learn how to save a life....

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your kids active and set them up for healthier habits into adulthood....

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Explore the Heart Foundation’s guide on what to expect in the first month after your heart attack. ...

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment and management

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment and management

Absolute CVD risk assessment is an integrated approach that estimates the cumulative risk of multiple risk factors to predict a heart attack or stroke event in the next five years....

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is proven to keep you out of hospital and reduce your risk of death from heart conditions....

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a buildup of plaque....

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease means that your heart valve or valves don't open or close properly....

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

What are the best sources of protein when it come to your heart health...

Cardiomyopathy; another health curveball for Ange

Cardiomyopathy; another health curveball for Ange

Cardiomyopathy; another health curveball for Ange

A story from Ange Foster ...

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

In Australia, 90% of women have one risk factor for heart disease, and 50% have two or more. ...

Heart disease and pregnancy

Heart disease and pregnancy

Heart disease and pregnancy

Pregnancy is often referred to as the “ultimate stress test” for the body....

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals....

Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) clinical resources

Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group