David O’Brien reflects on his experience with Cardiac Rehabilitation and getting “back to normal”

“Born in 1947 in Pontypridd, school and university in Cardiff and having spent all my working career in England, my personal cardiac story begins with our move to Cornwall in 2005 and my registration with a doctor then. With no obvious symptoms he prescribed statins and aspirin as my cholesterol was higher than was recommended, even though I was reasonably fit and active and considered my diet was sensible. This was followed in 2006 when my company annual BUPA medical concluded it would be prudent for me to be seen by a consultant cardiologist as heart failure was hereditary in the family.

The cardiologist had recently returned from the States and he strongly recommended an angiogram, in his words this was the gold standard approach to my circumstances. I was duly booked in for the procedure and while still in the theatre he announced I had “serious chronic heart disease”. Quite a surprise for my wife and myself as I felt fine. He basically advised that the choice was a by-pass or an angioplasty, I opted for the latter and stents were implanted the following week. Medication was then increased.

I then decided I would join a gym to improve fitness and pay more attention to diet, although I did not consider this was poor. Over the next few years my condition was regularly monitored and I considered I was fit and “healthy”!

After I retired in 2010, with grandchildren now on the scene, we moved back to Wales to be closer to them and joined a gym in Monmouth, cardiovascular exercises principally, but it was in March last year that I had a cardiac arrest whilst exercising there. I was completely unaware of this but fortunately was promptly attended to by a doctor and a defibrillator used before the paramedics arrived and the air ambulance took me to Bristol Royal Infirmary. I was in a coma and in intensive care for nearly two weeks during which I again received further stent treatment, eventually having a defibrillator implanted. I was discharged after nearly 5 weeks and began the journey to a more active life.

However, being a member of Usk Rotary, it was only when Ron Colbourne of North Gwent Cardiac Rehabilitation gave a talk one lunchtime meeting that I thought it would be worthwhile me taking advantage of their services, despite a certain amount of cynicism on my part! I attended the 8 week course before last Christmas and was delighted with the attention I received there in Abergavenny at the Mardy group. On completion I re-joined the gym in January this year.

In April the cardiologist at Bristol was delighted with my progress and it only leaves me to thank all the Rehab Team for the tremendous help I received in getting back to “normal”!”

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