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