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Heart Attack!

Contact Mike Gascoigne
Contact Mike Gascoigne

There are lots of us just like me. You will find us at...
Cardiac Athletes

That's right, that's the "health problem" that I mentioned on my home page. Sounds scary, doesn't it?

It was September 2005 and I was busy packaging a book for a customer (because I do some writing and publishing), and suddenly I got this pain going right across the chest and felt nauseous and out of breath, and any kind of movement made it feel worse. I was alone in the house at the time and had to call my own ambulance. They arrived very quickly and rushed me off to hospital where they gave me a clot-busting drug that made me feel better. Then they took an X-ray which showed that the small coronary artery, where the blockage had occurred, needed to be opened up.

They kept me in the cardiac ward for about a week, then transferred me to another hospital where I had a stent fitted using keyhole surgery where they feed a catheter through a major artery in the groin. The operation was successful and they showed me the radiology pictures, showing how the coronary artery was passing hardly any blood beforehand but was completely clear afterwards.

Then I spent the next few hours immobilised with a clamp fitted to the groin to allow the wound to heal up, but I was out of hospital the next day and back home. The next day I was out walking in the meadow behind our house, rather cautiously at first because I didn't know how everything was going to work, but during the next few weeks I gained confidence and increased my pace a bit. I found that there was a group of people walking the same route every Wednesday morning, many of them for similar reasons, and they were led by a professional fitness instructor. They were called the "Activate" group, so I joined them and went on many pleasurable walks. I also joined the Rambler's Association so I could do some more walking.

A few weeks after discharge from hospital I went back there for a treadmill test, where they get you going at a fast pace while connected to an electro-cardiograph and a blood pressure monitor, and they decided that I was OK for vigorous exercise and signed me up for a 12-week rehab programme at a local gym. When the programme was finished I signed up as a regular gym member, and after about a year I felt I was ready for some competitive outdoor activity and joined the Sandhurst Joggers. They are a really friendly club and I enjoy the training runs and races, and sometimes we meet at a pub or coffee shop afterwards.

When I first went into hospital, obviously I was concerned about what might have caused the heart attack. A nurse came to me with a flip-board, asking me if I could identify anything from a number of possible causes. As she turned the pages it said "smoking", "excessive drinking", "high levels of stress" and "unhealthy diet". I couldn't identify with any of these, then she turned the page again and it said "lack of exercise" and I said "that's the one". I used to be quite active, doing a lot of swimming during the 1990's, and I did the BT Swimathon (a 5K swim) three times. Then I got bored with it and made excuses about how I was too busy, and lapsed into a sedentary lifestyle which was obviously a mistake. There was also an element of bad luck, because I never had high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and there were no other measurable quantities that suggested I was at risk. The nature of risk is that something might happen even if it's unlikely, and if it happens it's called "bad luck". I can't say that lack of exercise was the cause, but there is no reason why I should want to take chances with it. The sedentary lifestyle is not an option, and I decided at an early stage in the rehab process that whatever I do, I have to make it interesting so I won't get bored with it. I think I've resolved that problem now, because running around the hills with the Sandhurst Joggers is such great fun.

During the rehab process I was obviously concerned about what constituted safe and effective exercise, and I was interested in all sorts of other health issues, and I used to read a lot, and I reached a point where I felt that I should formalise my knowledge into a qualification so that I could teach it to others, so I signed up for a gym instructor course with a training company called Future Fit and worked for a while in a local gym. They liked the idea of having an instructor who could identify with the older clients, especially those who had cardiac problems, but many of them had other problems and I felt a bit out of my depth so I registered for a Personal Trainer and Advanced Instructor course. This involved a real-life case study where I worked with someone for 12 weeks to try and achieve some measurable improvements in fitness. I soon found that to be an effective personal trainer I would also have to learn about nutrition, so I signed up for the Nutrition and Weight Management module which involves another case study lasting 8 weeks. I also signed up for a few other modules, listed on my home page, which were required for the two diplomas: Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist.

So now I'm ready to help you, if you feel that you are out of shape and need to get back to health and fitness. Just contact me and I'll see what I can do.

Mike Gascoigne