David Oke
Melbourne, Friday October 13 1995

Search your heart search your soul…

On Friday October 13 1995 I was to sing and play, on piano, the Bryan Adams song Everything I Do, I Do It For You at the practice for the wedding march for friends at their church in a Melbourne northern suburb. The wedding ceremony was the next day. I didn’t attend either.

On that Friday morning I woke up feeling extremely dizzy. After getting out of bed I had a shower and noticed a dull pain in the centre of my chest. I had ringing in the ears and by the afternoon I was throwing up like nothing else. I went down to visit our G.P. with a neighbour, as Heather was at home with our week old baby, Daniel. The G.P. took one look at me and called an ambulance. I thought that it was possibly a virus or a ‘grief reaction’, as my mother had died suddenly two weeks prior from a brain aneurysm. Daniel was actually born on the same day as mum’s funeral and I attended both. How extreme can your emotions be?

I was conscious as to what was going on. I went through a barrage of blood tests and X rays, but was very aware of the flurry of activity going on around me. After Emergency I was wheeled up to the cardiac ward and connected to the heart monitor. A short time later a very matter –of-fact nurse informed me that the test results revealed that I had experienced a heart attack. At the relatively young age of 35.  It turns out that the ‘vomiting’ from the afternoon was a gasping for oxygen as my body systems were shutting down. I have no memory of the crushing overt pain often associated with heart attack. Thirty five year olds don’t have heart attacks! I had never been a smoker! How could that be true? My response was total disbelief.

I had no idea that heart attacks can manifest with many different symptoms.

Recovery sure took a while as we later discovered, after having a deep vein thrombosis in my right leg, that my body was full of blood clots. The conclusion is that my blood starts clotting unusually when I am under stress. Mum’s death and the arrival of the new baby were all a bit much. The legacy is that I continue to have daily blood thinning medication. It was then that I decided not take on higher duties as a primary school teacher. Any ambition to become a principal dissolved as from now on I knew that stress is harmful to my health.

In the weeks and months after the heart attack there were re-adjustments to be made. I adjusted my diet and went through cardiac rehabilitation. But, any time I felt dizzy or had a twinge in the chest I went straight back to the hospital for a check up. Once was Christmas Eve, 1995 and the last time would have been in the early 2000s.

 Look into your heart-you will find
There’s nothing there to hide.
Take me as I am – take my life
I would give it all – I would sacrifice

Don’t tell me it’s not worth fighting for
I can’t help it, there’s nothing I want more
You know it’s true:
Everything I do, I do it for you.

I later heard that the Bryan Adams song was played, on CD, as the couple walked down the aisle.

More than 20 years later things are brighter. I have not had re-occurring heart issues. The damage to my heart was minimal. I did not need bypass surgery or the insertion of stents to open arteries. Thanks to the medication my blood test results are consistently stable and positive. Now I am part of a men’s health program called Sons Of The West. In 2017 I visited four different groups, accompanying a guest presenter from the Heart Foundation, to share my heart attack saga and to encourage participants to be aware of heart attack signs and to consider healthy exercise and dietary habits.

However, I still find it difficult to listen to that Bryan Adams song. Everything I Do still triggers a bundle of memories – being in the cardiac ward for days, the hospital smell, separation from loved ones, the desire to get outside into the fresh air, sunlight and hear birdsong, missing the wedding of friends, the disappointment of not being able to lift up my week old baby, the hours of staring at the heart monitor screen – being scared that I might witness abnormal rhythms or of another cardiac arrest, bursting into tears when walking past a defibrillator, the hospital noises in the half light of night time and hitting rock bottom at a time of my life when there should have been much celebration.

Sons Of The West website

David is a Melbourne musician, music teacher and primary school teacher. His debut Stereo Story was about playing Great Balls of Fire at Sun Studio in Memphis. He has assisted in the organisation, and leading of gospel music workshops and Sunday gospel celebrations at the Anglesea Music Festivals, and is a member of The Seddon Jammers. His son Dan is the creative force of the band Jarrow.

By |2017-10-14T10:52:59+00:00October 13th, 2017|Pop|8 Comments


  1. Darlene October 13, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

    David, thanks for sharing your story, your last paragraph hits a home run for me. It’s the reason to read “Stereo Stories,” music takes you back to that moment, good or bad. For me, as someone who had a traumatic health experience at an even younger age, I relate to your experience. That is what we all want, to connect and to know what others think about when they hear a song, you’ve captured all that.

  2. David Oke October 13, 2017 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Thanks Darlene. I like that you made the ‘good and bad’ comment. I have written a few other stories for Stereo Stories but my stories are pretty well all about ‘good’ or light-hearted moments. This particular one was a challenge as it does drag up some bad memories. I hope that you have recovered from your traumatic health experience and that the music you listen to, and enjoy, are positive aspects in your life.

  3. Carrye October 14, 2017 at 12:30 am - Reply


    Your story resonated strongly with me. I, too, experienced a non conventional heart attack, learned after the fact, in the hospital. You capture how an event like this dials in the focus on details, the sights, smells and sounds, that someone else might not notice. That is what makes the story so powerful. Your story makes clear why Everything I Do brings such a mixed bag of emotions even still. How wonderful that you’ve passed the 20 year mark with no recurrence. Thanks for sharing.

  4. David Oke October 14, 2017 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Thanks Carrye. I have since learnt that another symptom can be pain in the jaw which can be mistaken for toothache. My advice to people, if you suspect a heart issue, is to stop what you are doing and call a paramedic. I remember that it was my third night in hospital where reality kicked in. I couldn’t sleep due to the pain that was like ‘bruising’ around my heart, so I was thinking about my future, thinking about what could have happened, all in the sounds and smells of the night time hospital environment. All good now but I will never forget, and that song is always a reminder.

  5. Stereo Stories Admin October 15, 2017 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    It may be insensitive, David, but some unkind souls – music snobs – may say that your heart attack saved you from a particularly grim fate: singing Everything I Do.

  6. David Oke October 15, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    There are many factors that point you in the direction of liking, or not liking a particular song. For some it is the harmonic construct, the sentiment within the lyrical content, tempo, instrumentation, timbre and phrasing used by the lead vocalist and so on. Music is always subjective, like any art form. So many variables. However, sometimes as a musician you will perform a song if you like it or not. It was a song special to that couple, so special that they wanted it on their wedding day. In reality I would have been singing harmony and Heather, my wife, would be singing lead vocal. That song was popular around that time. It was the number one song on the UK, Canadian, USA and Australian charts in 1991. The evidence suggests that some people liked it! (so take note unkind souls and musical snobs- and no – there is no truth in the claim that I faked the heart attack to avoid performing that song!!)

  7. msdebbie October 31, 2017 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Hi David, I have much love for this story and song, which I am linking to a FB post I’m writing for the 20th anniversary of my Dad’s death on 31 October 1997. He had his first heart attack at 23 (1975) and then another at 34 (1986) revealed cardiomyopathy. Luckily he got another 11 years from a Dr Victor Chang heart transplant and saw all three girls to adulthood (22,21,18). I love your comment on the things which draw us into or away from songs. So personal. Magic alchemy. Thanks for sharing this tale :)

  8. David Oke October 31, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks Debbie. I am quite pleased, and quite honored that you are sharing my story. Your dad had a very challenging journey – a heart attack at aged 23 would have been very unusual. Having a second at 34 would have been quite devastating. What a blessing it must have been to have the heart transplant opportunity and see you all grow up. I didn’t include in my story that in hospital there was a constant “voice” reassuring me that I wasn’t going to die – a bit of a spiritual experience. My son’s birthday is always a reminder of the loss of my mum, and is also a reminder that many years ago I went through that heart episode. Fortunately it is more on the back burner these days rather that being in the forefront of my thoughts. There are too many positive things in my life so I try not to dwell on those things that bring me sorrow.

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