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Heart of the matter

A triple heart bypass has made me look at things differently

So, thought you were healthy, huh? Weight fine? Blood pressure, cholesterol ok, living a fit life and eating healthily, blood tests clear, social drinker and never smoked? Well, that’s what I thought.

In June, I began to suffer occasional discomfort as if wearing a tight T-shirt. I visited the doctor with an unrelated problem. I took tests, including an ECG, all of which I passed. On returning for the results, it was casually “go to hospital for a check-up”.

I had not noticed problems. The discomfort abated quickly. I still played badminton and it had not been long since we moved home. As well as the tightness, it was as if I could not take in enough oxygen if I walked far.

But, something was not right I also felt like there was an obstruction in my throat as if I had swallowed too big a piece of apple. So, with trepidation, I motorcycled to the hospital. My ECG was taken on the treadmill. Sure enough, the signs were there.

While a fit, relative youngster of 47, I suspected that a stent would do. So, next was the angiogram, a painless experience for me. A coloured fluid was injected into the arteries through my thigh and X-rays were taken.

It was a shock to find all three major arteries were blocked and that a swift triple heart bypass was recommended. It was quite surreal discussing the date as if it were a holiday. The first was in the middle of a busy Conservative conference and mentally it seemed soon so I defaulted to November time to adjust and indeed recuperate over Christmas.

I empathise with those who have decided to sell businesses, give up jobs or whatever following a scare. Yes, we reassessed our plans and I shall look at things differently but being advised that physically I should be a new man (indeed even fitter), my resolve is stronger.

If anything I have shared here is familiar, visit your doctor. If symptoms persist, take an ECG under exercise. I am not here to frighten. Both consultants said the condition is hereditary and I was “born into the wrong family”.

However, while the seeds were there, conditions germinated them. We had had tremendous pressures, including restarting a hotel and restaurant hands-on while doing everything else.

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… yours is the earth and everything that’s in it and which is more, you’ll be a man my son.”

If overweight, a smoker and a heavy drinker and do not exercise, not only are you more likely candidates but the possibility of heart attack rockets.

I praise the NHS. First-hand, I have had invasive surgery as well as seeing the issues. Yes, my heart stopped for 30 minutes. My life was in their hands. So, instead of thinking I could have been history, I am now dedicated to helping make history.

Philip Milton is managing director of Philip J Milton & Company and the Conservative candidate for North Devon

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