Seamus O’Connor’s message is “Never self–diagnose”. Self–diagnosing his severe heart condition as indigestion almost cost him his life.
Seamus’s symptoms started in 2000. He had severe indigestion, or so he thought, for weeks, even months. He used to take his grandson to school. Almost every day,after about 100 yards in the car, he’d be in terrible pain. When he’d get home he’d have to lie on the settee for 30–45 minutes until it went away.
One day Seamus and his wife Maeve were invited to a wedding but the pain was so bad Maeve issued him with an ultimatum: “If you don’t go to the doctor, I’m leaving!” Seamus knew she was joking about leaving but very serious about the doctor.
The GP immediately sent him to Craigavon Hospital where an ECG and blood tests showed there was a problem. Three arteries were badly blocked and one was completely blocked. The cardiologist said the prognosis was not good and Seamus would require surgery.
Seamus’s case was so serious that at first surgeons did not think it would be safe to operate. Seamus says he was never worried about the operation – he was worried about it not going ahead. He was used to living an active life, and hated not being able to do things. However, eventually a surgeon at RVH agreed to take the case on and Seamus had a successful quadruple bypass.
13 years on, Seamus aged 82, has not looked back. He is still active: gardening, bee–keeping and looking after his grandchildren. He and Maeve will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary next year in 2016. He is eternally thankful to her for making him go to the doctor and very grateful for the cardiologists and surgeons who cared for him and persevered, seemingly against the odds, to give him all the “extra” years he has had.
His message again is “Do not self–diagnose. A heart attack may not always show itself as a pain in the chest or a pain down the arm. If something’s not right, get it seen to. It could save your life.”
Find out more about the cardiac support services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.