A man in Ireland used to fret over every little pain, but he gradually learned to brush it aside and ignore it. Years later, he felt a “sharp pain” in his head and chose to ignore it again, that is, until he heard an advertisement playing on the car radio.
John Hassett, 63, from Dublin counts himself lucky to still be alive all thanks to a radio advertisement he heard in June. He had gone swimming and everything seemed fine when he got out of the pool.
“I went swimming—so I must have felt fine—but when I got out of the pool I felt a brief sharp pain in my head. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like a surge that was there for a split second, leaving me feeling faint, and then gone,” he told Independent.
Hassett had experienced the same feeling four years prior, and he put it aside; this time, he couldn’t ignore it.
“I had the radio on in the car and an ad came on for 24/7 Urgent Cardiac Care at the Mater. There was something about the symptoms they were describing that made me think ‘that’s me,’” he said.
He called the number and got an appointment that same day. He asked his daughter to drive him to the hospital but didn’t tell her the reason, as he didn’t want to worry her.
At the hospital, a friendly nurse performed tests on him, but her expression soon changed, and she suddenly went quiet. Hassett knew something was wrong, and a doctor told him he had an irregular heartbeat, and that he was in a “pre-death” state. Hassett needed heart surgery, and his chances of survival were 80 percent—which is not ideal under most conditions.
Hearing this, Hassett regretted having ignored the prior signs, such as the pulse readings from his exercise bike showing an erratic heart rate. “I disregarded the signs of heart disease and I don’t know why, I can only say I was foolish,” he said.
After his wife had died of cervical cancer at age 35, Hassett had started visiting doctors for every little pain he had, fearing that he had cancer. Gradually, he convinced himself that nothing was wrong.
“I thought I tried to live healthily,” he said, but acknowledged that he would have “a drink of wine or whiskey and a cigar” at night while watching the sports channel.
“Getting the news, that this might be it for me … there’s no other words than to say it was heart-stopping and I couldn’t help but cry,” he said.
Fortunately, the operation went well. “That was 10 weeks ago. I count the weeks now because that’s 10 weeks I wouldn’t have had. I feel like now I’m on, not ‘borrowed time’ exactly, but lucky time. Given time,” he said.
Hassett is now more careful and is trying to kick his old habits. He says he still misses his wife and also fears that his life could suddenly change. “But then there’s other days when I’ll ride the bike somewhere up Howth head, gaze out at the sea and think: ‘Aren’t I lucky,’” he said.