I like watching all the medical drama series on television but never once did I think I would replay scenes in these aired programmes until this year 20:20!

What happened? I had a heart attack and everything played out just like in the previous TV series and movies, only this time the pain and confusion was on my side of the screen! I thought I was dreaming the whole time, actually reality sank-in many weeks later.

When you experience a heart attack several things happen… The crashing physical pain, the confusion and disbelief all come at once! I remember feeling the worst pain in my chest, then I collapsed immediately on the floor, after which I felt a lack of air in my lungs. Survival instincts kicked-in immediately, I wasn’t going to die alone in a locked house! I knew whatever was affecting me was severe and it would kill me in a matter of minutes even though I didn’t know I had developed a heart condition. It’s true that you’ll know when you’re about to die, it was such an intense strain on my entire body that you can’t fathom, this “thing” would end my life.

The health and safety training I so casually acquired from childhood to date sustained me until the medical team arrived. But it was not a walk in the park! First, I had to remember where my phone was and crawl towards it in the next room. Second, speaking to the voice on the other side was almost impossible while gasping for air. Third, giving yourself “CPR” instructions is very frustrating especially when your mental faculty is challenged.

I had never read literature about cardiovascular conditions despite having alot of interest in health and nutrition. Let’s just say out of all the ailments I thought would affect me once in my lifetime, a heart condition was not one of them.

Anyway, long story short, I eventually ended up in the ICU ward with all manner of wires and tubes plugged into my body. I prayed I would come out of this in one piece! After almost 2 weeks in hospital I was discharged and a month after that I had a successful Angioplasty surgery.

Physical stability is the most important thing after a heart condition, however it’s only one side of the story as I have come to realize. Complete restoration of a patient with a cardiovascular condition needs alot more input than you can possibly imagine.

Having a near death experience should not be underestimated because several things happen in your body, mind and soul, some of which cannot be explained or understood by others. As a result Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs have been developed to help recovering patients overcome these difficulties that are often taken for granted. For instance, some patients will celebrate their win while others spiral into depression overnight despite surviving the ordeal. The bottom line is that each person will react differently based on their interpretation of the experience.

Cardiac Rehab is a medically supervised program designed to improve your cardiovascular health if you have experienced heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty or heart surgery. This program has several goals:

1. Medical Goals – Treatment and Management
2. Social Goals – Improving quality of life
3. Psychological Goals – Emotional Stability and Outlook
4. Behavioural Goals – Reducing risk factors
5. Health Science Goals – Knowledge and awareness

Due to these goals, a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals are required to make the program efficient and effective. Clearly this is a process that will demand alot of dedication and patience from all stakeholders.

The cardiac rehab program is conducted in four phases:
Phase I: In-hospital patient period
Phase II: Post-discharge period
Phase III: Cardiac Rehabilitation and secondary prevention
Phase IV: Maintenance

Managing cardiovascular health is both a complex and costly understaking. The basic treatment overwhelms patients and their access to Cardiac Rehab Programs is just not feasible despite the fact they would immensely benefit from them. While governmental and non-governmental organisations exist to relieve this cost burden, they are only useful if the ailing population is aware of them and the logistics involved.

The road to recovery is never easy for any patient, more so those who almost lost or are losing their lives because all manner of things go through their mind. I’ve had numerous ailments in my lifetime but none of them ever brought me to a physical and mental breaking point like the Coronary Artery Disease. The team and doctors that helped me survive believe I made a remarkable come back but I know this is just the beginning!