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Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track.

Key takeaways

Cyril Hennequin, 60, from Melbourne, managed a successful recruitment business, and was an avid cyclist and father of two boys when he suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab was a very positive experience for him.

Cyril’s heart story 

“I thought I had indigestion… my wife, Marieanne, and I had some takeaway food that evening and I woke up at midnight with mild chest pain. The discomfort was similar to indigestion and I rated it as four out of ten. I assumed it was indigestion from the food I ate earlier, but the chest pain continued to slowly increase. My wife made me some herbal tea, but it didn’t help. So I took a gastric reflux pill, as it usually fixes everything, and went back to bed. 

I still couldn’t get relief, so my wife jumped on her iPad and googled ‘chest pain’. The Heart Foundation website popped up, where she read about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. I was in denial and continued to protest that it was just indigestion. 

Through some previous work I’d done, I suggested Marieanne ring Nurse on Call. After she told the nurse “middle-aged man, chest pain”, they put me on the call to describe what I was feeling. The nurse told me I could be having a heart attack and suggested I go to hospital.  

I felt that gave me permission to go to hospital.  

We went down the road to the Alfred Hospital where they admitted me. They put all the gear on me and talked about my high heart rate. It was sitting on 220. They said, “You’re having a heart attack, but this is the best place to have it.” 

I was looked after very promptly. I remember thinking “Boy, I’m not even 60 and I’m gonna have a heart attack, I may not make it.” After prepping me for an operation, an hour and a half later, I was back in the ward with a stent inserted in the right side of my heart. 

Well it was a shock, it was a shock for my two boys, seeing me all plugged and wired up in hospital. My wife, Marieanne, she was the rock. I was healthy, I was fit, I never thought a heart attack could happen to me.  

I spent four days in hospital and while there, got some literature about heart disease and cardiac rehabilitation. I was determined to get back to the level of activity I was doing prior to my heart attack, so I signed up to attend a six-week rehab course in Caulfield.  

Heart attacks don’t discriminate – women, men, even a young fit guy who was 35 – was in my rehab group. Having a heart attack was my ‘wakeup call’ – you realise you’re not invincible. 

Cardiac rehab was a very positive experience for me. We had a physio supervising our cardio and weight activities. A cardiologist talked about understanding heart disease and what it was all about. We had a pharmacist speak about managing medications and side effects. And a dietitian who talked about healthy eating – how to reduce salt, sugar, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and read food labels.  

It also covered the psychological aspect of recovery – because you will experience feelings and emotions that are quite unique. You might get a little bit angry with yourself – ‘maybe I should have done this or that.’ Rehab helps normalise your experience and emotions – I found it most helpful and you leave the program feeling quite informed. 

I always say, “you’re the CEO in charge of your own body”, you need to take control. Cardiac rehab provided me with the structure to get back to the activities I used to do. I was very focussed. Even before I finished rehab, I had signed up for a 5 km charity run.

Two months after my heart attack, I ran and walked the 5 km course in the Run Melbourne marathon. Four months later, I had the confidence to cycle a half Around the Bay in a Day. I exercise with a Fitbit to monitor my heart rate and try to keep it below a certain level. 

I met a great group of people at cardiac rehab. We regularly catch up on the last Sunday of every month to go for a walk around the ‘Tan’ (Melbourne Botanical Gardens) and grab a coffee. It’s a very Melbourne activity! We spend the first 10 or 15 minutes talking about how we’re going and then we just talk about life – the social aspect is very good.”  

Cyril’s one piece of advice 

“I feel cardiac rehab changed my life. It’s the best investment you could make – for yourself and your family.”

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