Heart attack survivor John Sheriff urges others to act quickly if they feel something’s not right
John Sheriff, 56, from Banbridge, suffered a heart attack last year, which came “totally out of the blue”.
“I, like many other victims, assumed it was a bad case of wind. How wrong I was..,” said John.
“After severe bouts of chest and back pain over three days, I realised something was seriously wrong and my wife called the ambulance. In the hospital it was confirmed that I had suffered a series of large heart attacks which had caused significant damage. I was fitted with three stents and spent a week in the hospital but, only two days after returning home, I suffered a cardiac arrest. I had another three stents and a ICD [implantable cardioverter-defibrillator] fitted.”
Heart surgery saved John’s life but, coming home from hospital, he was thrown into emotional turmoil.
“I sunk into deep depression. I questioned, why would I suffer a heart attack? Before the attacks, I would run/ walk 90km per week plus two sessions of weights and cardio in the gym daily. I played football and cricket as well as being a keen cyclist. I rarely drank alcohol and have never smoked in my life. Where did I go wrong?”
John was a close protection officer in Afghanistan prior to his heart attack but was unable to return to service.
He said: “I cried most days through frustration and anger. My head was in a mess and I felt useless. I felt like giving up. I thought that this is a disease that overweight people suffer from, not someone who was described by friends as the fittest person they knew. In fact, once I was shot through the neck in Southern Afghanistan and was back at work the next day. I thought that I was indestructible.”
John was referred to Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s online Taking Control programme.
“The guys running the programme showed empathy and understanding. They encouraged us to open up and talk about our experiences and the problems we suffered, and to chat with other participants - I found great comfort knowing I wasn’t the only one in a dark place,” he said.
Fidelma Carter, at NICHS said; “A lot of people, like John, don’t realise they are actually having a heart attack. We are urging people to remember STOP - if you notice yourself or someone else presenting with any of these symptoms, don’t wait, call an ambulance immediately.”
*The acronym STOP stands for: S – Something’s not right – symptoms can start slowly; T – Tightness or pain in the chest, pain in the arm, neck or jaw; O – Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or sweating; P – Phone 999 immediately.