Since quite a few people have already heard about it, I thought it might be time to tell you about it here on the blog so you get all the info in one place. It is true that I have suffered a heart attack. It was after a half marathon in Gozo last Sunday that the accident happened.
I had just crossed the finish line and was thinking of a long-awaited nicotine rush through the white and tobacco-free nicotine pouches that are also sold here in Malta. It wasn’t many minutes before I felt that something was wrong in my chest. It is not uncommon to experience stiffness in the chest after heavy weight training, but this was something completely different.
I had trouble breathing, and it was downright painful. Considering that my brother, father and grandfather all passed away from a heart attack at a relatively young age, I knew it’s no joke when you get an unfamiliar feeling in your chest area.
Luckily, my girlfriend quickly got hold of the paramedics, and we were immediately transported by ambulance to the local hospital. It was an anxious few minutes of near panic as the pain also increased, and it became increasingly difficult to breathe (probably because of the panic).
Once at the hospital, the staff was well-prepared and quickly performed a thorough analysis of my condition while giving me blood thinners and sedatives. It didn’t take long for them to determine that it was a heart attack and that I needed a quick intervention to save my life.
Helicopter transportation was waiting, and at this point, I was (luckily) already so drugged from all the medications that I don’t remember much of this. The operation was underway less than two hours after I suffered the heart attack. They went through a tube in my arm to place two stents in the artery in two different parts of my heart.
I don’t know if it was the medication (drugs) talking, but I wasn’t really worried during the operation itself. I just remember being extremely grateful that I got help so quickly and that it didn’t happen while I was alone.
The surgery was successful, and I felt well soon after the procedure. Obviously bruised and tired from all the medication and surgery, but the relief was also great. I especially remember the comment from one of the hospital staff while I was still in transport – that it is important that the operation is done quickly to make the damage “reversible”. In other words, there was a great fear that the infarction had already done a lot of damage to the heart.
On closer inspection, this does not seem to have happened. But there is still an area of the heart that may need to be addressed later.
I stayed in the hospital for just over two days after the operation and, of course, slept most of that time.
Time to take the next step in life
Those who know me know that we don’t have good heart genes in the family. My brother died at only 44 years old in 2019, and before that, my father died at 55 years old in 2007. My grandfather died at 59 in the 1970s – all from heart attacks.
I have tried to be extremely careful with everything from diet, sleep and exercise throughout my life to fight this disease. I have also lived a fairly stress-free life in recent years and tried to focus on taking it easy and enjoying life. However, I have been far from perfect. Earlier in my life, I used snus, and during my time in Malta, I switched to using white nicotine pouches (without tobacco).
According to initial analysis, it was also these nicotine pouches that triggered the heart attack. This is because vessels contract when using nicotine. Together with the hard effort of a half marathon, this was probably what made it too much.
Although it was, of course, traumatic, especially for my loved ones, I find it difficult to be sad in any way about what happened. I am just extremely grateful that I am alive and that this did not happen at another time. It could very well have happened after one of my long runs while I was alone, and then help would probably never have arrived. In other words, I had pure angel watch in this situation!
What I could have done better is, of course, to check myself regularly for heart health. But at the same time, the result would probably have been the same regardless. I’ve also never been a person who looks back in time and regrets any decisions I’ve made in life. Now all the focus is on what I can do better in the future!
The first step is to immediately stop all activities that unnecessarily stress the heart. This includes nicotine and caffeine. I have also stopped eating meat and am almost entirely on a plant-based diet. I only drink herbal tea instead of coffee. I had almost completely stopped drinking alcohol some time ago, but now it’s gone for some time.
This has gone surprisingly smooth so far, and I have actually felt better than in a very long time with all these changes. When life is at stake, the motivation is completely different.
However, the most important thing is that I treat this as the disease it is. In that way, it is not so different from diabetes or other diseases. There are enough conspiracy theorists who have opinions about medication and everything else in life. But what they often forget is that we all have different genes and that even the best-managed health cannot help against this fact. In other words, there are certain medications that will need to be used for the rest of my life – mainly for cholesterol, I would think.
As for exercise, running is, of course unthinkable for some time to come. Various evaluations of the health situation are now awaiting, and several of the many medications I take are also difficult to combine with a heavy load on the heart. The only exercise I am doing right now is lightweight strength training and walking.
At the hospital, I was told that marathons are not something that will happen in the future, but that is the least of my worries right now. As I said, I am grateful to be alive and will follow the doctor’s recommendations by the book. There may also be more surgeries in the near future, so it is unnecessary to plan the future too much.
At the same time, I must take the opportunity to thank the medical staff in Malta. I have already mentioned the health care system in Malta, which has a reputation of being one of the best in the world, and now I got to experience this first hand. Everyone I met was professional and passionate about their job, and it was clear that the procedures were in place to deal with this type of illness.
My friends have also been extremely supportive this week. You realize what good friends you have in life right now. Having so many people around me who care about my well-being does a lot for the mental side on the way back to a more normal everyday life. It may not be quite the same as before. But who knows, maybe the quality of life will be even better with all the changes I have now made.
I choose to be optimistic about life and the possibilities that exist in the future!