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Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Thankfully for Grant Byrne, a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan, some quick thinking helped him avoid a stairway to heaven. Read Grant’s heart attack story now.

One minute, Grant was playing his bass guitar; the next he was being flown to hospital after a serious heart attack. Significant lifestyle changes – including increased exercise, yoga and meditation – have made him feel much better. 

A life-long Led Zeppelin fan, Grant Byrne, 54, worked in the building industry, while playing bass guitar on the side. About a decade ago, he became a professional musician, playing in cover bands and accompanying other performers around Queensland.  

Grant’s heart story 

“I’m a bass guitarist with a few different cover bands. I’m stuck in the 70s, playing the music I grew up with. On the morning of my heart attack in February 2018, when I was 52, I had a swim in the hotel pool after a gig the night before. I was looking forward to another show that night, playing 70s and 80s covers.  

While I was swimming, I had an odd feeling in my chest. It wasn’t pain, but I remember thinking, ‘I wonder what that is?’ I’d never had any worries about my heart and had no family history, although I had smoked, on and off, until about five years ago. 

Later that same day, I was in the hotel room playing some music when I suddenly felt nauseous and a bit weak, like I needed to lay down on the bed. As soon as I did, though, I felt an incredible, crushing pain across my chest, like an elephant was sitting on me and suffocating me, and I knew straight away that I was having a heart attack. 

I called out to my partner Janice, who rang an ambulance while I just focused on breathing, on staying alive. It was frightening, and I thought: ‘I could die from this’. It took about 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive because the hotel was in a gated community, but it felt longer than 15 minutes to me. Doctors at the local hospital in Hervey Bay gave me clot-busting drugs and within a couple of hours I was in a helicopter, heading for hospital on the Sunshine Coast.  

I have a bit of claustrophobia, so I meditated in the helicopter to help me deal with everything that was happening. A couple of years earlier, I’d needed surgery for cancer in my jaw; part of the bone was removed and replaced with part of my fibula in a 14-hour operation. The recovery was slow and difficult mentally and emotionally, and I’d recently started meditating as way of coping with anxiety. 
In the helicopter after the heart attack, I felt very strongly: I want to live. 
After the cancer operation, I felt terrible. Really low. And at the time I thought, ‘I want to die’. But I remember being in the helicopter after the heart attack, I felt very strongly: ‘I want to live.’ 

When I arrived at the hospital, the doctor on call decided that I needed a stent straight away. It was a STEMI heart attack, a severe heart attack caused by a complete blockage of an artery supplying blood to the heart, so very serious, and it has left me with some permanent damage to my heart muscle. Treatment for the heart attack also revealed a structural problem with one of my heart valves I’d had since birth but never known about, a bicuspid aortic valve. 

Recovery was a little slow and didn’t exactly have me jumping for joy. Regulating my medication wasn’t easy but things gradually improved. 

I found cardiac rehab incredibly helpful. It gave me the confidence to exercise. I don’t get into the Lycra, but I ride my bike to the beach most days. And I got information that helped me to improve my diet.

One of the most important changes I have made is working to reduce my stress with yoga and meditation. I’d meditated before, on and off, and it helped after the cancer operation. I’ve really taught myself by reading up and using an app.  
I really like the clarity and calmness mediation has brought me since my heart attack.
 After a heart attack, you can get the cardiac blues and feel depressed and anxious. Any feeling you feel that’s a bit out of the ordinary can make you think, ‘Oh no, that’s my heart’. But I find that meditation makes me more positive, calmer, less reactive and less likely to tense up. I think that getting out into nature, too, has a similar effect.”

Grant’s one piece of advice  

You’re not alone. Things do improve. Learn to love taking care of yourself and be grateful for life.


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