Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting EJ NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
After my heart attack, I asked will I survive?
2:00pm Monday 21st October 2013 in News
AS he lay in a hotel room wondering if he was going to survive a heart attack he realised he needed to make a change.
It was a dramatic wake up call for Gerry O’Donnell, of St Paul’s Close, Evesham, but one that sparked a change not only in the way he lived but which inspired him to help others.
“My initial reaction to the heart attack was, am I going to survive?” said the 65-year-old. “I remember lying in the hotel bed waiting for the ambulance thinking are my affairs in order?
All these thoughts ran through my mind. Then the pain goes and you think, oh, that’s it. But when I went to get out of bed my legs gave way and it shows how much it takes out of you.”
At the time of suffering his heart attack in 1990, Gerry O’Donnell, who is now an Evesham Town Councillor and chairman of Wychavon District Council, was employed by the Department for Transport in aviation security, living in Dumfries, Scotland and working on the inquiry into the investigation into the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, also known as the Lockerbie bombing.
“For me it was down to the stress, lifestyle and genetics,” he said. “As I was about to be discharged from the hospital in Scotland back home to Alton in Hampshire, where I lived at the time, I was told the leader of the cardiac rehabilitation unit lives there, Hugh Bethell, who started it with Allen Larvan.”
Cardiac Rehab is a set of services enabling people with coronary heart disease to have the best possible help to preserve or resume their optimal functioning in society.
It introduces a new lifestyle, strenghthens the heart muscle and gives confidence after the trauma of a heart attack or related event.
It is not just about supervised exercise-based rehabilitation, but addresses lifestyle issues such as diet, stress, medication, and the psychological effects of a heart attack or other cardiac event.
After moving home Mr O’Donnell decided to investigate cardiac rehabilitation.
“We were determined to build a bespoke facility down there because we just used the basement of the leisure centre initially. So I was involved in producing our first appeal and we had a centre built in Alton. Today it runs 24/7.”
Life eventually moved on and Mr O’Donnell found himself living in Evesham and serving on the the town council. “I became the council representative of the Evesham Market Town Partnership and it was at a meeting I happened to tell the story of the cardiac rehabilitation,”
he said. “I asked what happens here if people needed that kind of service here, they said they have to go to Worcester or Redditch. So I thought why can’t we have one here?”
Mr O’Donnell spoke to the Primary Care Trust and was told if you find somewhere to host it we will trial the service.
He then secured funding from Evesham Market Town Partnership for equipment and Evesham Rowing Club offered the use of their premises for free.
“It was opened in 2008 and covered in the Evesham Journal,”
said Mr O’Donnell. “After a year and a half we moved to the Leisure Centre.”
In 2010 the charity was set up to raise money for a unit and to publicise the service.
Now Evesham Vale Cardiac Rehab is working towards the vision of having its own facility that caters for all exercise based rehabilitation, whatever the condition.
This could cost about £300,000 and Mr O’Donnell, Cardiac Rehab trustees, volunteers and fundraisers are working hard to make it a reality.
The charity also has a new patron, Sally Bee, the expert patient columnist in the Daily Mail and Healthy Eating Cook, who suffered a string of heart attacks at an early age, and miraculously survived.
Mr O’Donnell said: “Her story is inspiring, and as she says, now healthy eating is not a matter of lifestyle, but of life and death.”
For more information or to offer support visit eveshamvalecardiac rehab.org.uk.
Comments are closed on this article.