Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Off-Beat Idea

A couple of weeks a go I had a heart attack, though I didn't know it at the time. I simply thought it was a more exaggerated version of the chest discomfort I had been experiencing for weeks. When I went to the doctor he diagnosed angina, gave me some medicine and sent me home. That night he called. I was surprised, I thought house calls were a thing of the past past. He was concerned because the results of the blood test he had taken that afternoon had returned and showed I had experienced a heart attack, probably on the weekend - enzymes released into my blood stream told the story (I could imagine one of those CSI animations of the artery wall rupturing and releasing plaque and enzymes into my bloodstream). I should go to the hospital, he said. I felt fine and said I would come see him in the morning. I can't really remember why I chose not to, but lets just say that by Friday that week I had another 'event', this time I didn't take myself to the hospital. I was taken - in the back of an ambulance.

In hospital I waited my turn for an angiogram, a relatively minor procedure involving making a cut in an artery in my wrist, inserting a catheter into into it and feeding the tube up to my chest cavity where a dye is injected that reveals by x-ray where arteries are blocked.

There are usually three outcomes:
1.No heart disease is revealed,

2.Some blocked arteries are shown and can be opened then and there by inserting little balloons with stainless steel mesh 'stents' which expand when the balloon is inflated then stay in place when the tube and balloon are removed, allowing blood to flow through the heart Unrestricted,

3.My case was the final, worst case scenario. Too many serious blockages in all of the wrong places, like intersections. The map they drew me showed blocks of 100% and 80% down to 'minor blockages. of 40%…all of which adds up to a quadruple bypass.

The news shocked me. I am still quite young - mid forties. My reaction was muted, but I couldn't stop a tear rolling from the corner of my eye as I lay there. I worried most of all about frightening my children. My daughter is just nine. My son is 17 and I worried he would be anxious- his mum died of cancer when he was just 4.

The past few days have been quiet and reflective. Waiting in the hospital for news of whether I will be accepted for the quadruple bypass surgery I need (I will find out today - and where I will be placed on the waiting list). My age means I will probably have a lower priority than an older person, but the extent and ongoing pain, even at rest, may indicate a more urgent need. I am philosophical. A part of me is happy to delay - the frightened part, the residual male bullet-proof 'I will be fine' bravado part. Another part of me just wants it over with so I can begin Life 2.0, bypassing the ill effects and getting on with an improved diet and lifestyle. Genetics are a factor too. But there is little I can do about that.

I woke early this morning with a start. I had an idea. For many years I have been, ironically, interested in Men's Health. In 1997 I started an ad agency with a couple of partners and our first major brief was to launch a major cholesterol lowering medicine and to promote a blood pressure tablet for a large multinational drug company. I went on to invent the Family Health Diary advertising programme. So, ignorance is no excuse. I have long known the risk factors for heart disease: 40+…Male…family history. Hitting the jackpot comes as little surprise. A poor diet and not enough activity probably didn't help.

But, back to my idea.

Rather than feeling sorry for myself I'm going to do what I can to help others prevent the need for radical remedies when the alternative is simple and easy to integrate into everyday life.

Pimp My Pump™

My heart will be re-engineered by grafting arteries 'harvested' from my chest wall, arms and legs around my blocked arteries. I had an image in my head of an engine, with tubes and pipes, glistening in the sun. Like the MTV show Pimp My Ride my clapped out heart will have a new lease on life…surgeons are going to Pimp My Pump™

The thing is that radical surgery isn't the only way to achieve a positive result. I want to get the message out to men in their late thirties and forties (and their partners) in a way they can accept and that being aware of heart health and actively taking steps to promote it is far less traumatic than what the next few weeks holds in store for me.

So, stand-by for updates about my plan.

Today I will make some calls to enlist support and help to get the word out. I registered the domain pimpmypump.org this morning - still waiting for the DNS record to populate.


  1. I was really sorry to hear of the events on twitter. But I am really really gobsmacked (in a good way) that in the middle of it all you're thinking not of your self but of others. A young man going through diagnosis and treatment of serious ischaemic heart disease talking to other young men is a powerful tool. I hope others read this and start talking to there loved ones and there doctors.
    All the best on your road to recovery

  2. Great writing. Please keep it up, and I wish you all health.

    My Father, he is older than you, spent years "managing" (another story) his heart condition with drugs, then had a severe heart attack which required an ambulance trip and after 4 weeks hospitalization, he had 6 bypasses.

    Great work David,

    Regards, Phil Bilbrough

  3. All of your friends (and Tweeps) are pulling for you. Any further advise you can give regarding prevention, ie. diet and exercise that you would recommend?

  4. Hope the surgery goes well - an acquiantance who had the quad recommends it to everyone who feels a bit puffed walking up the stairs.

    He seems well enough now, certainly much better than before the operation, but avoiding such a procedure by keeping your heart healthy does seem a very good idea. :)

  5. Good luck! I have heart problems myself (Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome), and have had surgery.

    Tony Hughes
    New Zealand

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience, David. Let me know how I can help.


  7. You never cease to amaze me. You always find a way to create something incredible out of difficulties. I'll write the theme song for your project.

    Monique Rhodes

  8. David, what an awesome idea, for the rest of us, and I guess for you (otherwise you wouldn't be doing it!).

    I have had ongoing heart problems since age 31 (8 years now) but fortunately relatively minor. Had to go overseas to get the surgery I needed 18 months ago, and feeling 100% since then.

    It does seem a little counterintuitive that you would be pushed down the waiting list in favour of an older person. I'd have hoped that, all other things being equal, a younger person would be prioritiesed over an older person. (standing back now ready to be flamed for that comment!)

    Good luck with it all - and can we follow you on Twitter, or just here?


  9. Hi David,

    My dad has had Angina for 20+ years now, and went through a quad bypass 3 years ago at the age of 64. Although he was much older than you are, his recovery was super fast and he is in AWESOME health now..

    I wish you all the best and am convinced you will be in better shape than ever before from here on in..

    Nicole (@Schnicker)

  10. Hi David,

    I hope the surgery goes well and you get well very soon! I've been following your progress on twitter and love the way you're reacting to the "not so good" things happening to you at the moment, and even taking good ideas out of a bad situation.

    Keep it up and all the best,


  11. 1. get well
    2. get well super soon
    3. what a marvelous thing you are doing here, and how brave to sahre your experiences

  12. Thank you all for your comments and kind thoughts.
    I am not sure how to reply specifically to individual remarks on Blogger. I will find out.

  13. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=74954699060&ref=ts

    Dear David,
    What an inspirational story! All the very best in helping and sharing your wisdom to those who cry out for the same inspiration!
    Best wishes

    John Edmonds


  14. great website! i'm an official member of the zipper club as of fri,12/11/09.yessiree ,quad bypass.i'm 45 years old from suburban pittsburgh pa,usa.coincidentally the steelers got spanked by cleveland on thursday 12/10 correlation?hmmmmm?
    anyway,great tongue -in-cheek approach,best of luck and stay healthy!!!!