I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack
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I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

Nicola, mum of 2, shares her heart attack recovery story.

I am a mum, daughter, sister, and wife to a supporting, loving husband. We are blessed with two cuddly, happy and energetic boys who are full of love. Being healthy and active is part of our everyday life.

Almost three years ago, I was working part-time in the dental industry. I loved my work but began to feel tired, often. My first thought was that “Raising two boys does that!”. However, I was feeling very unwell: I became dizzy, experienced nausea and what I thought was a very bad case of heartburn.

My symptoms continued to build: I was sweaty, had intense pain in my arm and jaw, and it felt hard to breathe. I knew something wasn’t right.

It’s all about family.

I left my family behind: I was in an ambulance, on the way to the hospital. When I arrived, I was sent in for an emergency angiogram: the test found my right coronary artery had an 80% blockage.

I’d had a heart attack! I was in shock, and so were the nurses and doctors! I felt numb, overwhelmed and in disbelief.

During the surgery, four stents were placed in to open my artery and allow the blood to flow.

I was 38 years old; I felt too young. Having a heart attack was not something I expected! I live a healthy lifestyle: I have never smoked and have no risk factors or family history. 

Thanks to the doctors and nurses, I survived, and they gave me and my family hope.

I am blessed to have had lots of support from my family and friends, including my husband, my mum and dad, my brother and sister (and in-laws), mother and father-in-law. I’m thankful for my boys, who were five and seven at the time. They were young, but they knew there was something wrong with mummy’s heart.

Two weeks after my surgery, reality hit: I couldn’t drive, was not able to do school drop off or pick up. I could only do limited physical activity, with no lifting. How could I do my normal day to day chores, be a mum and run a house?

Since then I’ve had a few setbacks, including restenosis (95% blockage) of the same artery. I now have five stents, but I’m not counting!  

My boys have learned when they need to call 000

There have been times when my husband had to call for an ambulance. My boys have seen paramedics check my heart, and they have watched as the ambulance drives away, while I’m in the back. It is heart-wrenching to see the worried looks on their little faces, to see the tears rolling down.

My boys have had to learn to be aware of me and to know what to do; they have learned when they need to call 000. They are such caring kids, and I am a super proud mum.  I know that I must be strong and stay positive for them. They give me strength because I couldn’t let my boys grow up without me; it takes hope, faith and courage.

My family knows how passionate I am about supporting the Heart Foundation. I first reached out to them during my recovery; now, I volunteer for them, and I am a member of the Supporting Young Hearts Committee. I just want to be able to help others and to give back. My boys also held a Jump Rope for Heart event at their school, to help raise awareness.

I now realise that I am not alone; there are others who also have a heart condition at a young age. At the Heart Foundation, I have met many beautiful souls, people who continue to support my journey; we all share a unique heart story or experience. It’s amazing who you meet.

At the heart of Mother’s Day

As a mum, you never stop worrying. My mum has always been there for me. She found it difficult to deal with my diagnosis. After my event, she drove me to many appointments. Mum helped with household chores, including cooking many yummy Italian meals. She took care of my boys while my husband was at work. I am so grateful.

Mum sat with me on my down days and, most of all, she is always there with her endless love and care. I know It hasn’t been easy for her to see me go through such a life-threatening event. 

My mum and I were lucky to attend the Young Hearts Forum just six weeks after my heart attack. The event was very informative and going along helped us to get through such a difficult time. 

I think sometimes things happen for a reason. My heart attack gave me a whole new perspective on life: I value and enjoy every minute I have with my family, friends, husband and my kids.

This Mother’s Day we are in isolation (because of COVID-19), it will be a little different. I’ll be sending virtual hugs to my mum and mother-in-law, and I will drop off chocolate and flowers at their doorstep.

As for me, I will be with my boys and my husband. We will go for 10-20-kilometre bike ride along the beach. Or, we will head to the athletics track for a walk or a run.

Afterwards, there will be lots of cuddles! And, I’ll be putting my feet up; especially after a few very challenging weeks of homeschooling!

Most of all, I’ll appreciate that we have this time together, that I can say “I love you” each night while tucking my boys into bed.

Each day I am thankful for another day; we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring. 

Nicola is a member of our Supporting Young Heart program which works with younger people, aged 18 to 40 years, who are living with a heart condition or recovering from heart surgery​.

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