Picture above, my home for three days, the Medical ICU.
How many times have I said it, " I think I'm dying" especially after a hard race or tough training session but Sunday after the race I really meant it.
So what does it feel like having a heart attack. One thing I can say, it is the worse pain I've ever experienced. Not even breaking two ribs and my collarbone at two places last year when I had my bike accident can come close to this pain.
As I was driving back to the airport after the race we stopped at the" Petroport" on the N2 towards the airport and I went in to buy some water as I was very thirsty. While standing in the queue to pay I started sweating and was really feeling bad with the heart burn very intense. When I got to the car I asked Kim to drive as I couldn't.
Just after coming out of theater
While Kim was driving I had this immense pain all over my body, as if my body can't get oxygen and is suffocating. My arms were numb but at the same time had this intense pain. My calf muscles were trembling and I tried to feel what my heart rate was but couldn't get a pulse. My whole body was in pain with the heart burn just out of this world. I stuck my head out of the window just to get some air.
We don't know the area and instead of looking for a Hospital, Kim drove to the airport as they have medical staff on duty, or so we hoped. When we arrived at the drop off zone at the airport Kim ran inside looking for the emergency people. Some friendly porter guided her to their offices. While she was doing that I got out of the car and laid on my back outside the airport entrance. I was feeling terrible and people came to ask me what's wrong but I couldn't even answer them.
It felt like forever but Kim came back and said she found them and an Ambulance is on it's way. How many times have I heard an Ambulance siren but hearing it after a while was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.
They got me in the ambulance and started assessing me while driving to the EMS offices. There they started treating me while they waited for another Ambulance to take me to Hospital. Can't remember how long it took but while we waited they treated me and gave me tablets under my tongue and put me on a drip.
The day after the heart attack
The Ambulance came and took me to the Hospital's ER. It was quite scary as the ambulance drove and the guy working on me was talking on the two way radio (I think so), saying to them "We have a code red" and they must be ready this is critical and keep asking if the doctors are ready. That was scary, hearing all this and in all this pain.
As we arrive at the Hospital they were ready and the ER doctors and staff were amazing. The treatment was just out of this world, giving me tablets, pumping, I don't know what, into the drip and eventually got me stable. They kept telling me to open my eyes and not fall asleep as I just wanted to close my eyes and rest. I can remember at one stage the pain was so intense that I started crying and they told me to take it easy, my heart is taking strain. They kept giving me all these medicines and looking at the heart monitor that was hooked up on me. They also kept Kim in the loop of what's happening and comforted her.
They then got me into theater and inserted a stent into one of the arteries. Coming out of theater I felt much better and was already eating something that evening. One of the ER staff came to visit me that night and also the ER Doctor the next day, saying that people don't survive such massive heart attacks and I can be very lucky.
Can't remember every one's name but to the Paramedic, Mbuli, keeping me alive in the EMS rooms and to the ER doctor, Dr Karin, thanks for saving my life. Also to Dr. Pillay doing the surgery. Thank you so much!
Also, Thank you to Dirk, helping me and Kim at the airport to check inn and to get my bicycle on the plane.
Kim's gift to me
Xterra race organizers gift
The race organizers of the event came to visit me and Kim and gave us these gifts. The first three days I felt very tired but better everyday from then onwards. It's been almost two weeks now since the little mishap and feeling much better.
I went for a follow up at one of the best Cardiologist in the country today and he did some tests. He say he can only say after six months if I have permanent damage but everything looks good and he feel comfortable to say that I should recover 100% and return to Triathlons. Say my heart is looking good, pumping as it should be, with no blockages or issues (firing on all cylinders, haha). I am not allowed to do any activity (high heart rate) for four weeks but can go for walks. After that I can start training very slowly but nothing over 70% of max heart rate.
Flying back home on the Friday (5 days after the attack) and waiting with the "silver brigade" to be "loaded" into the airplane. Just didn't feel right but I was too tired to walk and I just wanted to get home.
So why the heart attack. That was a mystery to the Doctors as I don't have Cholesterol, Sugar, any heart conditions or family history of heart attacks in the family. They did a lot of tests in the Hospital and everything came back negative, just couldn't pick up anything.
The Doctor said going on medical terms I shouldn't have had the attack. I am super fit, eat healthy, don't smoke or drink a lot.
One would never know but after today's visit to the Cardiologist he gave me two possible reasons after I told him exactly what happened and both make sense to me. Maybe it's not the reason but I will take it to put my mind to rest and move on, not going to stress about why.
Reason number 1
I told him that I was fine until the 3 km mark on the run. It was very hot and taking a look at my Garmin, my heart rate at that stage was 172 bpm. What I never thought about was at the 3 km mark there is a river crossing and seeing that it was very hot, I dived into the river cooling my whole body with the ice cold river water and not running through it only for my legs to get wet.
He say the sudden cold water could have let my heart go into a spasm (compared it with getting a cramp in your calf muscle) and that triggered the attack. The reason why I had the heart burn, dizziness and arms full of needles and pins directly after crossing the river make sense now.
Reason number 2
It could have been that one of my arteries had a small tear from all the endurance training/racing and this caused the artery to block temporarily and not supplying blood to the heart also causing the attack.
Well that's it, now on the road to recovery and back at a Triathlon soon, I hope.