The day my dad had a heart attack

It’s a generally accepted wisdom, in Australia at least, that men are terrible at looking after themselves. I’m not talking about cooking and cleaning (despite what the advertising industry seems to think), but health. The culture of silence, of “manning up” and “she’ll be right” is so damaging that mental illness* is the leading cause of death amongst men between the ages of 15 and 44.

This culture also has a strong impact on older men, with statistics** suggesting that men are less likely to visit a doctor until a much later stage than women.

My dad, in his 60s, fits the bill in some ways. While he’s not completely opposed to going to the doctor, and has a really good one he sees regularly, but he does tend to take a ‘wait and see’ approach with things. So when we got the call in the early hours of the morning to say that he was having chest pains and was waiting for an ambulance, I knew it wasn’t good.

I’ll skip ahead to ease any tension – it was a really minor heart attack, no lasting damage and he’s fine. It was likely a result of smoking in his youth. He’ll be on medication for the rest of his life, but there is no reason for it to happen again. We are all so grateful that it wasn’t worse – it was really the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

But we are also grateful that dad didn’t wait to get help.

The day after it happened, while he was still in hospital, dad told me that he hadn’t been sure about going to the hospital. He didn’t want to call an ambulance unnecessarily (a fear I have shared in the past) or waste anyone’s time. He wasn’t sure if he was making a big deal over nothing. But he woke mum and got her to make the call anyway, because he’d been told by a physician he met through Rotary how important is to get checked.

He also said to my mum that he was worried about us, not wanting to risk us losing him too early by ignoring something potentially serious.

He made the right call.

I wanted to share this story (with his permission) because I want other men out there to realise that sometimes to “man up” means accepting that you do need help. That your families are better off with you here.

Some people never get a chance to make that decision. Sometimes it’s too quick, or an illness is beyond their control. But if you have the choice to speak up, to get checked just in case – do it. Do it for yourself, and do it for the people who love you. Trust me, they will be grateful.

Munchkin and Grampy

Munchkin and her beloved Grampy