Sunday 15 August 2021 will be a memorable anniversary for me. It will be 12 months exactly since a friend and I climbed Seana Bhraigh after cycling up Strath Mulzie.
What was so special about this hill walk that left me with a lump in my throat at the summit on a warm, sunny day with incredible views in all directions?
Well, it was 16 weeks after I had heart bypass surgery – six grafts to be precise. And my first serious hill walk after the operation.
My story begins in April 2020, the day after my 63rd birthday. Remember this was in the middle of the first covid crisis when protective equipment,
intensive care beds and ventilators were in short supply, and there was great uncertainty and concern about the full impact of the pandemic.
I’d been suffering from indigestion or heartburn on and off for about 3 weeks. After a bad morning I phoned my GP. She told me to immediately
phone for an emergency ambulance in case it was a heart problem. After an initial examination and cardiogram the paramedics didn’t think I had a heart issue.
After all I appeared well, had no obvious symptoms and was not a prime candidate for a heart attack. I was not overweight, reasonably fit, had never smoked
and there was no history of family heart problems. After some discussion, the consensus was that I should go to hospital to be checked out.
It came as a shock when 24 hours later, after a multitude of tests and examinations, I was told I had indeed suffered a heart attack – I had been suffering from
angina and not as I thought heartburn! The good news, there appeared to be little damage to the heart. The bad news, I was diagnosed with chronic coronary heart
disease and required a heart bypass operation as soon as an operating theatre, intensive care bed and ventilator were available. I had my operation 5 days later.
The early stages of recovery were not easy and very frustrating. I was told to give it time and reminded that my body had undergone a ‘brutal operation’.
After around 6 weeks I was becoming more mobile but still very limited in my walking capabilities. However, day by day my distances and speed increased along
with my cardiovascular fitness. After 12 weeks I took a lot of confidence from climbing Mayar, my local munro. The trip to Seana Bhraigh was planned shortly after.
Thankfully I have made an excellent recovery and should be free of heart problems for years to come.
Why am I telling my story? There are 3 reasons:
1. Anyone who has even the mildest chest pains should get themselves checked out. Don’t like me assume it is heartburn or some other minor ailment.
If you ignore the symptoms you may not be as lucky as me.
2. Hopefully my story gives hope to anyone who is recovering from or has been told they need heart bypass surgery. You can make a good recovery.
3. Seana Bhraigh via Strath Mulzie is a super outing, particularly on a fine day. I can heartily (sic) recommend it. Although the cycle up the glen and
backdown is rather bumpy and you may loosen a few of your fillings on the way!
Stay healthy and enjoy your hill walking.
Steve Wilson - June 2021