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Heart Foundation TV Ad Proves to be a life saver

The Heart Foundation says its heart attack awareness TV campaign is saving lives by prompting more Kiwis to get help faster when experiencing heart attack symptoms.

Heart Foundation Medical Director Gerry Devlin says the campaign, which has been running since 2015, helps educate New Zealanders on how to recognise the signs and symptoms of a heart attack so that they can call 111 immediately.

Gerry says part of the reason why people often hesitate to call 111 is that they overthink the need to call an ambulance.

“When a heart attack happens, life-threatening rhythm problems are common. So early access to a defibrillator, carried by ambulances, is really important to save lives. This is why we recommend people call 111 immediately and do not try and drive themselves or others to hospital.

“Also, the earlier a blocked artery is opened up, the less long-term damage there is to the heart muscle which is why speed is critical.”

Four people who can attest to the success of the ad campaign are Gavin Ross, Shennett Clotworthy, Ian Lancaster and Eric Hansen.

Gavin Ross

For Gavin Ross aged 60, that message came just in time. He had dismissed pain across his chest as “just a pulled muscle” until he saw the ad on TV and realised it might have been a heart attack.

“It was a bit of a twinge that went away, and I never worried about it until the next morning when I saw the guy on the TV ad,” Gavin says.

“He is the one in the background and I thought, ‘Crikey, that could be me.’”

Spurred into action by the ad, Gavin decided to call into a GP clinic where they did some tests, including an ECG, after which he was told he had had a heart attack.

Gavin says he now realises he had warning signs prior to the heart attack but just didn’t know what they were.

Shennett Clotworthy

Shennett Clotworthy also says that if it wasn’t for the Heart Foundation ad she wouldn’t have called 111 so soon. Shennett aged 79 was at home on her Okaihau family farm when she started to have problems.

“I was feeling unwell and I lay down on my bed and that’s when I heard the ad in the background. I was feeling nauseous, I was sweating and I had a pain in my chest that was getting worse and worse,” she says.

“I thought to myself ‘oh I’ve just heard this, perhaps I should do something about it.’”

Shennett called 111 and when the paramedics arrived to her remote farm, they told her she was having a major heart attack.

She was flown to Auckland Hospital and taken straight into surgery.

“It’s amazing,” she says.

“I had seen the ad before, but on that particular day I had just listened to it!”

Gerry Devlin says if Shennett had delayed calling 111 the result could have been serious damage to her heart or even fatal.

“I would have called eventually, because the pain was getting worse, but not as soon as I did,” she says.

“I realise how fortunate I am.”

Ian Lancaster

Others, like father-of-two Ian Lancaster and Honorary Fisheries Officer, Eric Hansen, also
attribute their calls for help to the TV ad.

Ian started feeling the symptoms of a heart attack but considered brushing them off, until he remembered the Heart Foundation’s TV ad.

"Their message was flashing in my mind as I ticked off the symptoms. I realised it was time to do something.”

After his colleagues called an ambulance, he was rushed to hospital where he was assessed by cardiologist Dr Andrew Aitken.

Andrew says Ian sought advice quickly and got to the emergency department within an hour of the onset of pain, which made a world of difference.

“The length of time it took was significantly reduced because of what he saw on TV the night before,” Andrew says.

Eric Hansen

For Eric Hansen things began to unravel while at standing at the Mangawhai boat ramp alongside two of his work colleagues.

“It was a stinking hot day and I started to feel a bit unwell, but my first thought was dehydration,” he says.

“I was sweating and my stomach was all upset. But there was numbness down my left arm, so I took off my vest and radioed down to my colleague and said ‘Hey we gotta go.’”

Eric wasn’t certain he was having a heart attack, but he recognised the symptoms from the TV ad and decided, if in doubt, call an ambulance.

“I don’t believe in being the hero,” he says.

Eric’s colleagues drove him to the nearby ambulance bay in Mangawhai and the ambulance staff came out and immediately gave him an ECG.

“That’s when the ambulance officer said ‘you’re having a heart attack.’”

Eric was flown to Auckland Hospital where he had two stents inserted.

“By the time my wife got down there to Auckland Hospital, I was sitting up in bed ‘happy as Larry’.”

By taking immediate action rather than adopting a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, Eric has very little damage to his heart.

“There’s a small amount of damage to the heart muscle, but other than that, there’s been little to none at all. However, that all comes back to acting quickly and doing something about it straight away.”

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