On Sunday May 16th I was surfing with the ladies surf group (with board hire from South Shields Surf School) when I started to feel a tightness in the center of my chest. Putting it down to heartburn I carried on and caught a couple more waves but when the pain started to feel more intense I signaled to the ladies that I was going in and they all offered to come but again, thinking I was being overly dramatic about heartburn I said I was fine and carried my board to the shore.
By the time I was at the shoreline I was feeling very strange with a deep pain in the center of my chest and a bit disorientated so I sat down with the sea lapping my feet and waited to feel better. Unfortunately I didn't feel better and the pain started to radiate down my left arm and I had the most vivid realisation that I was having all the symptoms of a heart attack. I had seen a video somewhere that detailed female hear attack symptoms as they are so different from that in men so it had stuck in my head. I thought don't be ridiculous; your 36, you don't smoke, your only a bit podgy (blaming baby weight and lockdown), you run twice a week, surf, bike etc this must just be a trapped nerve in your elbow and some heartburn. Women and heart attacks
Women and heart attacks
Find out more about women's heart attack symptoms and the relationship between menopause and heart attacks.
There wasn't a soul on the beach apart from the surfers in the water and when I went to stand up to carry the board back my legs wouldn't move. Luckily I had my phone on me in a waterproof case and I called Nick Jones from the surf school who was actually not on duty that day and said I was having 'a funny turn' as I had no other way of describing what was happening to me. He was down in a flash with Rebecca who is one of his team and they assessed me and helped me up the beach.
They took my symptoms very seriously (which I absolutely didn't) and were so calm, professional and insistent on me getting medical attention when I was absolutely adamant it was all a big fuss over nothing. Bryony Jones (Nicks wife) was on the scene in a flash too and between her and Nick they did absolutely everything they could to ensure that I was seen by an ambulance (all the while me being a very uncompliant patient). The surf club members were amazing as I hijacked their club until the ambulance arrived.
I can state with absolute certainty that if it wasn't for Nick, Bryony and the surf schools staffs' incredible care I would have gone home to my three children that day and ignored what had happened, which would have potentially had dire consequences not worth thinking about. I wont ever be able to thank them fully for what they did that day, and the fact that the have now been involved with raising funds for a defibrillator at the very site where I had a heart attack is just incredible.
What happened to me is incredibly rare, and its unlikely that I will ever know why it happened. But I am so unbelievably grateful it happened where it did, when it did. I was surrounded by the trained professionals from South Shields Surf School who acted with huge amounts of compassion and professionalism and ensured that what was an emergency situation never became an even more serious one.
Heart attacks aren't something I had ever thought about as we have no family history of them, and its certainly not something that I would have ever thought would happen to me. Its not until you realise how easily anyone can be affected by a cardiac event that you stop to think about how important fast access to defibrillators are;
"In order for the patient to have the best chance of surviving an out of hospital cardiac arrest, CPR and early defibrillation must be provided within the first 3-4 minutes of the cardiac arrest, followed by advanced life support within the first 8 minutes of the arrest."
The reality is most of us are more than three minutes away from a defibrillator most of the time, but the South Shields Surf Club and South Shields Surf School have made it so everyone who comes to enjoy our beautiful beach is one step closer to being saved if they do have a cardiac event.
The fact that something so positive has come out of what could have been such a negative thing is a real testament to how invested in the community the school and club are. They are making everyone's trip to the beach, whether it be for a Minchellas ice cream or a cheeky splodge in the North Sea so much safer.