Joyce McBride, who lives in Ballymoney and was an auxiliary nurse in the Causeway Area Hospital in Coleraine, had a heart attack in 2002.
The previous year, Joyce had costochondritis, which is a painful inflammation of the cartilage in the chest. So when the chest pains returned she assumed it was a reoccurrence of the costochondritis, but in actual fact it was her heart.
On a Friday morning in April 2002, Joyce went into Ballymoney to do some messages and had terrible chest pains. The pains were so bad that she could hardly walk to her car. She was also short of breath and sweating.
Despite feeling unwell she went to pick her grand–daughter up from primary school. Her daughter, who is a nurse, had been on night shift and so was still in bed. While she was waiting, she was rocking backwards and forwards with pain. When her grand–daughter came out of school she told her to get in the car and stay there. She didn’t want to call an ambulance and frighten her grand–daughter, so she phoned her daughter and said “I’m having a heart attack. You need to come here and take me to the hospital straight away.”
Joyce knew it was a heart attack. No doubt at all. She knew that she should be calling an ambulance. But she also wanted to make sure she looked after her grand–daughter. She also knew that she could not drive herself to hospital, especially with her grand–daughter in the car.
Her daughter arrived within minutes as she lives nearby and drove her to the Causeway Area Hospital where her colleagues rushed to help her. She was treated with drugs at the Causeway Hospital and then was transferred to Belfast the following Tuesday for the insertion of one stent.
Joyce had had a massive heart attack. Despite the stent, over the years, she kept getting angina and shortness of breath so eventually four more were inserted in May 2011.
Joyce spoke to her doctor about what had caused her heart attack as her blood pressure and cholesterol were normal. He said her family history put her at risk. Her dad also died of a heart attack when he was 62 years old, a year older than Joyce had been when she had her heart attack. In contrast though, the day he died, he went to bed feeling unwell, rather than going to hospital, and was dead by the time Joyce’s mum went upstairs.
Joyce is now the chair of the woman’s section of the Ballymoney branch of the Cardiac Support Network. She knows she was fortunate she knew the symptoms of a heart attack and was able to act quickly, and she is keen to pass this message on to others.
Find out more about the cardiac support services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.