Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Life Matters | When heart attack strikes at age 35

Published:Wednesday | June 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Nurse Sophia Stampp-Young from the Sagicor Paramedic Unit prepares Marc Blake for an Electrocardiogram (ECG) examination.
Marc Blake takes a moment to thank God for allowing him to survive his ordeal.
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It was supposed to be just another routine day for Marc Blake back in August 2016 when the unexpected happened. Thirty-five years old then, the seemingly young, fit and 'healthy' Sagicor Life Insurance adviser shares his story of his encounter with heart attack.

"I had my day planned and it was to be a very busy one - client meetings, follow-up calls, the usual day for a life insurance adviser," Blake said. However, the day would not go according to plan; later that evening, Blake was fighting for his life on a hospital bed as a result of a heart attack.

Blake recounted the events of that day; an experience which he says he will never forget. "I was at work and after eating lunch, I remember feeling what seemed like acid reflux; I expressed my discomfort to a colleague and he recommended that I drank milk to help," he explained. Not realising the seriousness of his uneasiness at the time, Marc self-diagnosed the pain as a form of indigestion. With the oesophagus lying just behind the heart, the burning sensation often felt like heartburn - a symptom of acid reflux.

But soon the severity of the situation would slowly begin to be realised. The pain began to get worse, intensifying quickly over a short time. Looking back to that scary moment, Marc compared the intensity of the pain to a fire burning in your chest. "Just imagine a fire trapped inside your chest, trying to get out and burning a hole in it."

 

UNABLE TO CONCENTRATE

 

Unable to concentrate on his work, Marc got in his vehicle and attempted to drive to the supermarket to purchase a box of milk, as was suggested by his co-worker earlier, in hopes of quieting the 'acid reflux'. Marc, however, did not make it to the supermarket.

"At the time I drove a minivan that once you press the button to start the engine, the doors lock up. When I got to my vehicle and attempted to drive off, I passed out, leaving me trapped in the vehicle," he recalled.

Marc was rescued from the vehicle after placing a call to friend and co-worker Patrina Parkes-Gibbon before immediately passing out. She then contacted Marc's manager, Maurice McDonald, who came to his rescue, in the Sagicor parking lot and rushed him to the Andrews Memorial Hospital, where his health began to further deteriorate.

After an evaluation from the medical team, it was confirmed that Marc was having a heart attack. Marc was immediately rushed to the cardiac unit where Dr Noel Crooks, interventional cardiologist, performed an angiogram to identify which vessels of the heart were blocked; after which the medical team moved swiftly to remove the blockage in time to save Marc's life.

As a life insurance adviser, Marc uses his own personal experience as a lesson to encourage young persons to get insurance coverage, as he pointed out that you're never too young to be faced with a serious medical condition or critical illness.

"At 35 years old, I never thought I could have a heart attack, but I did," he said. He explained that, unfortunately, too many young persons are of the mindset that "This won't happen to me". "I was going about my life, happy, loving my life, loving my children, loving my family, just enjoying life, then boom, that happened," he said.

Almost two years later, Marc said he is grateful to be alive and finds pleasure in the simple things. "I give God thanks each morning I live to see a new day." Marc also encouraged persons to make key lifestyle changes to maintain good health. Since his brush with death, he has improved his diet, and sticks to his exercise routine.

 

FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

- Cardiovascular disease is one of the non-communicable diseases (NCD) which accounts for 34.8 percent or 6,476 of all death in Jamaicans over five years old.

- A heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs when blood supply to the heart muscle is blocked but the heart keeps beating.

- It is estimated that about 40 to 50 per cent of all cardiovascular deaths are sudden cardiac deaths (SCD), with about 80 per cent of these caused by ventricular tachyarrhythmia.