Tonight I nearly lost the man I love

I used to feel that my life was a bit of a soap opera.  I felt that dramatic things kept happening; traumatic things that ruptured the normal yum drum of life as well as fun and amazing things that seemed so good they were unreal.  Then I met my Neil and felt that was it was all smooth sailing.  We were engaged within four and a half months – formally at least, he had made his intentions known much earlier.  We share a close connection that took me by surprise.  Some things can’t be measured in days or weeks; the moments are already deep and precious.  But today taught me never to take things for granted.

Neil had a heart attack this afternoon.

I just finished work for the year.  He was on holidays this week getting the caravan ready for our trip with the boys to the Gold Coast.  We were all so excited about this holiday!  Most days he had been going out to his parent’s property to get the caravan ready, but today he stayed home as my youngest had been unwell.  Little A had thrown up and then had a swollen eye (we think an allergic reaction to dog or cat hair).  This all happened while Neil’s cousin minded them so that we could go out with friends. No, she is in no way responsible for this and I think she is still in shock from having a young boy throw up at her place.

When Neil said he felt dizzy around 3.00pm, we both thought he was coming down with what my son had.  He sat down for a bit but when he started vomiting, he said he thought it was salmonella (to be clear, not from my cooking but from some leftover tuna he found in the fridge).  Sweat was pouring over his body and he was hot, then cold. I thought he had gastro so fussed over him and tried to get fluids into him.

After an hour or so, he wasn’t getting any better. He was still throwing up but was complaining that he was feeling achy and couldn’t get comfortable.  He is a solid, stoic man and not one to complain. He beat cancer many years ago, and when he said that the pain was the worst he had experienced since then, I called 000 and requested an ambulance. I still didn’t predict a heart attack but worried he was getting dehydrated and needed to be put on a drip.

The ambos came quickly.  They looked at him, asked a few questions and also concluded it was likely gastro.  They didn’t think it was was that serious and recommended he stay home, although offered to take him to see a doctor in hospital if he really wanted to. He considered it for a little while, before deciding he might go with them just to be safe.  I had to stay home with my sick little man and his elder brother. I got Neil dressed, handed him his thongs (for non-Australian readers, by this I mean footwear) and said I would see him soon.  Meanwhile, I contacted his family and let him know that most likely he had gastro but I had sent him off to hospital just in case.

In the ambulance, he mentioned that he had some mild pain in his chest.  They pulled the ambulance to one side, performed an ECG and quickly concluded that he was having a heart attack.  It turned out that the left side of his heart was 100 percent blocked, and the right side 80 percent. He had surgery on the left side this afternoon and will require surgery on the right side soon.

Yes, it was serious and I came close to losing him, as did his family and many friends.  He isn’t out of the woods yet, but he is doing really well.  Driving there I didn’t really comprehend that my loving and lovely man, who was looking healthier and happier than when I first met him seven months ago, could be so seriously ill.  I mean, shouldn’t there have been signs or something? He had actually done a course with the Rural Fire Service (he is a volunteer) about heart attack symptoms a few weeks ago.  We have a magnet with the signs on our fridge – how could I have failed to recognise the symptoms when they appeared?

Driving home from the hospital by myself (needed to relieve my flatmate from the task of looking after my boys), the tears came. I know this isn’t all about me, but OMG what a rollercoaster! Only nine days ago we announced our engagement, and now he is lying in hospital in pain!  It is nearly Christmas, and we had such expectations of a wonderful time ahead of us with family, drinking Prosecco and Rose and singing singstar and watching DVDs.  The Buddhist in me screams that life is about impermanence and that nothing lasts forever. Nor can you ever predict what the future will bring as you only ever have the present moment.  Both Neil and I have had major illnesses before. We know the drill.  Yet we thought we had gone beyond all that, survived it and were now living a new life filled with positive vibes and love.

I’m sure there is a moral in this somewhere. Maybe I should write something preachy about how important it is to look after your health. Or turn it into a debate about public versus private health insurance, or a reminder to get regular health checks to avoid heart attacks (women BTW are also at risk).  Right now I am comprehending what is happening, and being a writer, needed to get it off my chest.  Thank you for giving me a platform to do that.  I hope that if you read it, that one day if something strange like this happens to you that you have the courage to call an ambulance even if you think it is nothing serious – you could just save a life. I wish I had acted on my instincts sooner.

I promise there are more ‘all about Christmas’ posts to come – I have some drafted and will focus on more fun topics, which will also be good for me to help distract from the reality of what is happening with Neil. I even have recipes!

Thank you to everyone who already has Neil in their prayers.  And thank you for the care that he is receiving in hospital.  We are so very blessed.


  1. Thank goodness it was detected as quickly as it was. My thoughts are with all of you, Serina. This will probably take a while to process, and time to heal. Hopefully your lives will be back on track before you know it.

    1. Well, I really ought to have twigged earlier. And I should have given him aspirin. I always take aspirin, but yesterday gave him panadol. Thank you for your well-wishes.

      1. No! I’m sorry, but this WAS going to happen. All the aspirin in the world wouldn’t have prevented it at this point. And while we are all (hopefully) familiar with the common symptoms of heart attack, without chest pain, the symptoms could point to anything. Calling and then choosing to go in the ambulance were excellent decisions. A friend’s husband recently had a heart attack without common symptoms – his stubbornness (refusal to engage with healthcare despite the concerns of his wife) eventually lead to 2 weeks in ICU. You did a fantastic job.

        1. Thank you:) Still, you know, you look back and identify after the crisis has passed all the things you could have done differently. He is alive, the prognosis is good, and while he is not out of the woods yet, it has been a blessing today to meet all his many family and friend members who have come out in force to see him or to send him messages of love and support.

  2. I’m so glad he decided to go with them, just in case.
    My thoughts are with you both and other who are close to you. Take your time to accept, acknowledge and move forward together.

  3. What a rollercoaster for you all, praying for a quick recovery. I know a couple of other people who didn’t initially recognise their heart attack symptoms – clearly it can have complex effects on the body. Glad the ambos came and responded the way they did.

    1. It’s odd isn’t it – so much awareness in campaigns about symptoms, yet so very few people seem to be able to identify an attack when it is occurring.

  4. Oh my God! Serina! What a shocking roller coaster – I’m so glad that he’s stable. Perhaps there’s meaning to be found so close to your engagement to give you both the strength, love and inspiration to pull through together?
    Much love and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    1. Thank you Alix. We have reflected today how fortunate it was that it happened when it did. He was supposed to have been working out in the hot sun in Rossi yesterday – the ambulance might not have reached him in time. And then we were going on a caravan trip to the Gold Coast …

  5. Wow. Thank you for sharing this so generously. And stop feeling guilty about what you should or shouldn’t have done. You very obviously did everything you could and thank goodness you did! Good luck.

    1. Thank you. Ahhh, I could never have predicted our holidays would have turned out like this. Yet I feel an odd sense of calm tonight that all will be well.

  6. Firstly, my thoughts are with you and Neill. Secondly, your instincts about calling the ambulance were spot on and frankly, you have no reason to beat up on yourself – you did what was appropriate given the symptoms and the context, so there is absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. As for the rest, yes life can turn on an instant, so it is important to celebrate what you have when you have it. Life is precious; the time we spend with loved ones is precious, as are the experiences we share. For now, just breathe and walk and relax. Neill is clearly in good professional hands, now it’s time to take care of yourself.

    1. Thank you. Such lovely words and I really appreciate it. Life is indeed precious. Peace and joy to you and your family this Christmas.

  7. OMG Serina, I am quite shocked that the paramedics did not (even) suspect a heart attack… why not give him an ECG to be sure? Is a heart attack that rare in men in their 50s? Important thing is Neill is okay… and things turned out well.

    3 years ago, I came home and saw my mother leaning against the fridge unable to stand… I did a few basic checks (strength checks, numbness, facial drooping) and called “000” suspecting an ischemic event (stroke or mini-stroke). But when the ambulance came the paramedics thought my mother was just tired or had something not that serious. I absolutely INSISTED that they take her to Accident and Emergency and was not going to take no for an answer… paramedics actually walked her into the ambulance instead of placing her in a trolley stretcher. It took 3 days of observation and tests, on the 4th day I received a call from the treating physician to thank me for insisting. My mother developed symptoms of a stroke because she had a brain tumour pressing on the brain which metastasized from cancer of the lung.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your mother. Good on you for being so strong and brave and insisting when you knew that something was not right. I hope that your early intervention helped her to get the care that she needed. I think you have the instinct when someone you love is in pain about whether it is serious or not.

      It must be hard for the paramedics because they deal with so many cases of people who are not really that ill misusing the system. A nursing/paramedic student was telling me recently of a case where a tradesman had cut his finger (not badly) and called an ambulance thinking it would be cheaper than an Uber. He didn’t have private health insurance or ambulance cover, so it would have cost him $550.

      And no, they did not perform an ECG in the home and that will be the subject of a separate complaint.

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