My husband has always been a ‘big’ man. At 6.7ft he’s often a head or two above everyone else in the room and he has an appetite to match.
We’ve been married for over 40 years and like most couples had settled into a routine that lead our daily lives together.
We were in love with each other, but it was a different kind of love to the one we had when we were young.
Things were comfortable now; Peter had his hobbies and I had mine. We ate our meals together every day and night and spent time with our kids and grandchildren together, but a lot of our lives were separate in many ways.
A year ago, Peter visited his doctor for his six month check up and when he was told his cholesterol and blood pressure levels were particularly high, I quickly started to worry about how we would manage if something happened to him.
I’ve always encouraged healthy eating in our house, but Peter loves his sweets and greasy food and would often order takeaway lunches when he was at the office or out on the weekend.
I started to change our diet on the doctor’s orders and served up veggies and fish for dinner most nights.
Despite my best efforts though, Peter wasn’t about to let a little cholesterol stop him from enjoying his burgers, chips and coke. He was certain that everything would be fine and repeatedly told me that he “had it under control”.
A few months after that visit to the doctor, Peter and I were in the yard working on the garden. He was mowing and I was trimming a few of the trees. I remember looking over at him and noticing a pained look in his face.
Suddenly he gripped his chest and fell to the ground in agony. I rushed to his side to find him wide-eyed and gasping for breath. The rest feels like a blur but I remember running inside and phoning for an ambulance.
I told the lady on the other end of the line, “I think my husband is having a heart attack” – a phrase that still sends a shiver down my spine.
Watching Peter lay in that hospital bed, white as a sheet and barely moving is something I’ll never forget. The doctors were able to operate on him quickly and the bypass surgery was a success, thankfully.
In the weeks that followed, Peter wasn’t his usual self. He was quiet and slow and seemed somehow deflated. The heart attack had scared him and he avoided seeing our friends and urged the kids not to worry about visiting him too much.
As much as I tried I couldn’t get him excited about anything or interested in much at all. He had been ordered by his doctor to take time off work so he was just sitting at home all day with hardly anyone to talk to or keep him interested.
Even after he returned to work, things weren’t the same and after six months I worried about him constantly when I was away from him; I was scared he was going to spend the rest of his life on the couch and waste away.
I spoke to a friend who is a doctor and they told me some patients suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a particularly large health scare; they are so afraid of anything happening to them again that they retreat from the world and stay in their safe zone.
One day, I decided enough was enough and sat down with Peter to give him a stern talking to. I told him I understood that he was scared, but he couldn’t let this ruin his life.
He had survived and now was the time to learn his lesson from the experience and move on. I’ve never been one for sitting around and feeling sorry for myself and I wasn’t about to let Peter start either.
Over the next few weeks he slowly began to get moving again and socialising with friends and family. It was like watching the light and life finally start to make its way back into him.
As soon as he decided he wasn’t going to let what happened rule his life, Peter started to come out of his shell. He was smiling and laughing again.
He came into the kitchen to talk to me while I was cooking, he suggested we go for walks and held my hand they whole way, he invited the kids and our friends over for a barbecue and was the life of the party once again.
Together, we decided to embrace life with each other and get out of the rut we had fell into before his heart attack. We are close to retiring now and decided it was time to enjoy the later phase of our life together.
Now, we socialise with our friends most weekends, we joined a local community group to meet more people and try new activities, and best of all we bought a small caravan so we can take weekend trips away together.
If it wasn’t for the heart attack, I doubt Peter and I would be living the life we are now. It took a near-death experience to scare us out of routine – our rut – and although I never thought I’d say this, I’m so glad it did.