Sandra Dick: change of heart could save a life

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There are few things more annoying than rushing to get somewhere and there’s your husband, clutching his chest, sweating, a funny shade of grey, looking a bit poorly.

Sigh. Could he be any MORE inconsiderate?

A good 20 years since his first heart attack and he still drones on about being mid-seizure and I was yapping away at him for being slow, could he just take a paracetamol and hurry up for goodness’ sakes.

Later as he lay in hospital after a triple heart bypass with a smug ‘told you I was ill’ look, I felt a bit bad about not being more sympathetic. However, I counter attacked by reminding him that my knowledge of cardiology was limited to particularly bloody episodes of Casualty and, besides, I had diagnosed good old indigestion.

Had I known the old boy’s heart was in peril – raised on a good Weegie diet of Battenberg cake, Irn-Bru and fried bread, so to be fair the clues were there – well of course I’d have sprung into action. But to do what, precisely?

For a start it struck out of the blue while we were in Turkey, rushing to catch a boat for a day trip. There wasn’t a phone to call an ambulance and I had no idea where the local hospital was. Besides folks, remember, I had a boat to catch and sun cream to apply.

Thank goodness his episode was of the ‘not going to die today’ variety. He got on board and sat below decks whimpering while I topped up the tan and accused him of overdoing it the night before.

I know, I’m losing your sympathy here. Thing is, it’s not always that obvious when someone’s really ill, particularly when they stick on a brave face because it’s less terrifying to say they’re OK than admit they’re in a major soapy bubble.

More obvious is when someone is so sick they collapse in front of you. Still, other than dialling 999, how many would have the slightest clue what else to do? Even after years of trips to cardiac units, I still wouldn’t.

Recently I met the amazing family of Jamie Skinner, the 13-year-old Tynecastle player who died on the pitch. They are caring people who are battling to ensure heart equipment is available at sports centres. They also want more of us to learn the basics of how to respond to an emergency: CPR and spotting when someone is seriously ill could make all the difference.

Of course, they could just get on with quietly grieving. Instead, in their dignified and very selfless way, they are trying to remind us all – me included – that life is too precious and too easily lost to just not bother learning how it might be saved.