‘Fit and healthy’ Scottish dad suffered two heart attacks

David Smith and wife Gwen. Picture: Ian Rutherford
David Smith and wife Gwen. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE odd twinge in his chest was the first sign to David Smith that something could be wrong.

For a few days he had been suffering from pains but the fit and healthy 53-year-old simply wrote it off as indigestion.

As his father had died of a heart attack at just 36, David was having regular check-ups with doctors, who gave him the all-clear.

But one Sunday morning in September last year he was struck down by a massive heart attack at home in Bathgate, while his wife Gwen and sons Thomas, 15, and Calum, 25, looked on helplessly.

David, who managed a car dealership and worked as a director for a major firm, said: “It came completely out of the blue. It was quite harrowing for everyone. I don’t remember it but apparently I arrested in the ambulance and paramedics had to bring me back.”

David had suffered a serious heart attack known as a “widow-maker”, where the artery to the left side of the heart was completely blocked.

This type of blockage can be fatal as it cuts off the blood supply to the heart’s front wall, causing significant damage to the heart muscle.

He was taken to hospital where cardiac expert Professor David Newby fitted him with two stents, which widen the arteries to allow blood to flow through properly.

David said: “I had been quite healthy before this happened. It was a major heart attack and the doctors were surprised that I survived it.”

After spending five days in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI), David was sent home – but doctors were worried about the damage done to his heart. And just four weeks later, his heart stopped beating entirely when he suffered a cardiac arrest in his bedroom.

David said: “The doctors said the cardiac arrest was caused by the damage caused by the heart attack.

“My wife saved my life by giving me CPR and calling the ambulance so quickly.”

Ambulance staff tried to re-start David’s heart using a defibrillator and rushed him to St John’s Hospital, in Livingston, where medics managed to stabilise him.

He was placed in a medically induced coma for five days, and transferred to the ERI where he spent another week recovering.

Surgeons have fitted him with a cardioverter defibrillator in his chest – a device around the size of matchbox that shocks his heart if it detects an irregular heart beat.

He said: “It was awful for my wife and children, as they were the ones who discovered me on the floor.

“The doctors said I might never survive and if I did I might have brain damage or kidney failure. They said I am only really alive because I was fit.

“I am very thankful and grateful to be here.”

David is now living with advanced heart failure, meaning that his heart is very weak and he desperately needs a transplant to survive.

Around 46,000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with heart failure, more than half of which are men.

Walking 20 paces or climbing a flight of stairs is enough to cause him to get out of breath and he needs to use a wheelchair outside the house.

It has had a huge impact on his family as his wife Gwen, 44, has now become his full-time carer.

David has been told that he could wait up to four years for a heart transplant, although doctors warned that he only has a 50/50 chance of surviving the next five years without a new heart.

He said: “It’s been a huge change to my lifestyle and I can’t say it hasn’t been difficult to give up being the family’s provider and always being out and about.”

Despite all of these challenges, David is optimistic for future and has set out to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation’s Edinburgh Appeal which seeks to fund scientists developing treatments for heart failure.

The family have raised more than £2700 through a range of events, including his sister Carol shaving her head and his sons giving up chocolate for the whole of March.

David said: “I feel OK but I could die at any minute. But you adapt. You have to be positive.”

n To find out more, visit www.justgiving.com/David-Smith177.