Geoff Vogan from Portadown always kept himself fit, going to the gym 2–3 times a week, and taking up cycling. He had a healthy diet and was not overweight. So the possibility of a heart attack was the last thing on his mind.
On the 19th May 2012, the morning of his heart attack, Geoff had felt an odd type of pain, like trapped wind. He took painkillers and by midday was feeling a bit better so set off on the 44 mile cycle from Portadown to Newry and back, a distance that would normally cause him no problems. However, as he cycled, the “trapped wind” became worse. It was making his left arm feel increasingly uncomfortable and he was holding his arm in different positions as he went along to try to get some relief. His friend noticed this and asked if everything was okay. They stopped at a shop to buy indigestion tablets but when he couldn’t find any, Geoff settled on half a pint of milk instead. The milk didn’t make any difference so 9 miles into a 44 mile cycle, his friend convinced him to return home. With the pain increasing, they took a short cut, which had the benefit of getting him home sooner, but involved a 3 mile hill climb. Doctors later told Geoff he was lucky he turned back when he did and had a good level of fitness because, had he continued, the outcome may not have been so good.
Once home, his plan was to watch the Heineken Cup Final followed by the Champions League Final, but the pain was getting ever worse. His wife Collette wasn’t at home but his sister Janice was there. She reminded him that their Dad had suffered angina and persuaded him to go to the Craigavon Area Hospital.
Following an ECG and different tests and injections, and despite his protests that he was going home to watch the matches, Geoff was admitted to hospital. By this stage he had realised it was not indigestion but thought it was probably a pulled muscle. The doctors had their own diagnosis and Geoff was given one stent in the left hand side of his heart, followed by a second one in the back of his heart 3 months later. The doctors told him to thank his sister for making him go to hospital before it became any worse.
Geoff only has praise for the cardiologists who took care of him and the team that ran the Cardiac Rehab he attended afterwards. He says that this was a vital part of his recovery. Within 2 weeks he was able to walk again and 2 months later was back cycling. On 13th September 2012, just under 4 months since his heart attack, Geoff took part in the 35 mile Causeway Challenge.
Now he cycles 150–170 miles per week with the Portadown Cycling Club. Alongside his fellow cyclists, Geoff has already raised a total of £7000 for Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke. But as well as raising money for NICHS, Geoff wants to lend his own voice to NICHS’s latest campaign. He says, ”Just because you are young and able doesn’t mean you are not a candidate. Make sure you know the symptoms of a heart attack and if you ever start feeling them, don’t reach for the TV remote control to watch the match as I almost did, reach for the phone and dial 999.”
Find out more about the cardiac support services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.