HEART Foundation Southland staff and volunteers say their open afternoons initiative has proved increasingly popular this year.
They hosted their final weekly open afternoon for the year at their offices in Hargest House last Wednesday.
Heart health advocate Nicola Mason said the afternoons provided an important opportunity for heart attack survivors to connect and find support.
The meetings could be as important and beneficial for them as medical treatments, because following a heart attack it was good for survivors to find others who could relate to what they were experiencing, she said.
A dietitian, a pharmacist and a nurse also attended to provide information and advice.
People of all ages suffered heart attacks, contrary to what many people assumed, Mrs Mason said.
Open afternoon visitor Pete Thomson, of Lochiel, said at 34 years old he was not in the age range people usually associated with heart attacks when he suffered one in August last year.
As a hard-working sheep and beef farmer, he was also very active.
“It’s pretty stressful coming into spring and you can take too much on. There was a flu going around – I was working hard and thought I’d just got a bit of man flu.”
Mr Thomson was flown by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital after it was diagnosed he had suffered a heart attack.
“I left home at 4pm and had a stent in [one of my arteries] by 7pm.”
Mr Thomson was back at work two weeks later.
He took up playing club rugby again as a tighthead prop for Midlands after retiring two years earlier because of work commitments.
Mr Thomson lost 13kg and played for the division one team last season, he said.
Pat Boyd, of Invercargill, suffered a heart attack in August this year.
Mrs Boyd said she was in tears, wondering why she was so tired. She lay on her bed holding her chest and thought she had indigestion.
It was Mrs Boyd’s concerned son who phoned for an ambulance.
When a doctor told her she had suffered a massive heart attack, she said she couldn’t have.
“I thought a massive heart attack would be severely painful.”
Nurse practitioner Rebecca Grant said some doctors believed Southlanders generally did not like making a fuss and were, therefore, not always good at phoning for an ambulance when they needed one.
“Some people who are in the middle of a heart attack have even driven themselves to hospital,” she said.
When Linda Blomfield, of Invercargill, suffered a blood clot-induced heart attack in 2015, after having a bone surgically removed from her forearm, she only phoned for an ambulance because her husband had been drinking and she did not want him to drive over the alcohol limit, she said.
Since her experience, Mrs Blomfield had been attending the open afternoons and had also become a Heart Foundation volunteer.
Diane Lowther, of Invercargill, who suffered a heart attack the same year, also became a volunteer.
Mrs Lowther said she had been in shock for weeks after her heart attack.
The groups had been helpful and she had learned to make small healthy changes to her lifestyle, such as making her own healthy pizzas at home, she said.
Open afternoons will resume next year on Wednesday, February 7, 3pm-6pm, at the Heart Foundation offices in Hargest House, Deveron St.
To find out more
A HEART Foundation information evening will be held on Wednesday, November 29, with GP Rachael Byars speaking about atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
Dr Byars will discuss living with these conditions and there will be two separate informal presentations, each followed by a question-and-answer session.
Attendance is free and family/whanau are welcome.
The event will be held at WellSouth Primary Health Network, 40 Clyde St, Invercargill.
Light refreshments will be served and booking is essential, as space is limited.Atrial fibrillation presentation: 5.15pm-6.15pmHeart failure presentation: 6.30pm-7.30pm