Former ‘walking heart attack’ urges others not to ignore health concerns during lockdown

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Ian Prentice thought he was having a reaction to a change in medication

A MAN described as a “walking heart attack waiting to happen” has urged people not to delay health visits amid the coronavirus outbreak after having lifesaving treatment.

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Former Barton Golf Club manager Ian Prentice (65) had been complaining of breathlessness before he underwent surgery last week for two blockages in his heart’s right artery.

Now feeling much better, he told the A&T: “Comments were made that I was ‘a walking heart attack waiting to happen’ and the medics showed me pictures of my arteries before and after the operation and you could clearly see the difference.

“The doctors said, ‘It was like my blood was travelling along a B-road full of pot holes and was now travelling down a motorway’.”

Mr Prentice has lived in New Milton for the last 10 years and has two daughters and four grandchildren. He was diagnosed with coronary heart disease and a moderate diffused blockage to his left artery three years ago following an angiogram.

He was put on medication and undergoes regular check-ups to monitor the problem, but over the past three months noticed he was becoming more breathless.

Yet he put off contacting the Arnewood Practice in New Milton or the Royal Bournemouth Hospital cardiac unit.

“My family nagged me to make contact with my doctor and the hospital and boy am I glad I did,” he said.

“I called the Arnewood Practice and had a phone appointment followed up by a visit to the surgery. They immediately contacted the hospital who then also spoke with me.

“I was booked in for them to carry out angioplasty a few days later. I was still thinking that my breathlessness was possibly down to side effects from medication.

“As my wife took me to the hospital, I remained concerned that I might be wasting valuable NHS time and money if it was only a need to change my medication.”

He added: “Arriving at the hospital the processes in place to protect everyone from Covid-19 were faultless. They carried out the procedure and my left artery was still the same as it had been three years ago. However, they found two severe blockages to my right artery and fitted three stents.”

Local GP Nigel Watson, chief executive of the Wessex Local Medical Committee which represents GPs in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire, said his friend’s experience illustrated the dangers of not seeking medical advice over fears of infection.

He said: “A significant amount of time and effort has been diverted to manage those patients with Covid-19 and we appreciate that the public are self-managing many of the less serious conditions. Your readers should have seen the recent message that the NHS is ‘open for business’.

“For some, the risk of ignoring their medical condition could pose more of a risk to their health than the risk posed by Covid-19.”

He added that a consequence of the world being “turned on its head” by coronavirus was that people feeling ill with non-Covid-19 symptoms were reluctant to present to medics amid fears they might be hospitalised and contract the virus.

“We have seen a 50% reduction in accident and emergency presentations, an 80% fall in cancer referrals and there has also been a significant reduction in people presenting to hospital with strokes, heart attacks, trauma and other emergency surgical conditions,” he said.

Dr Watson continued: “The NHS would encourage our patients, like Ian, to speak to their GP, contact NHS 111 or attend Accident and Emergency if they have symptoms that could indicate a serious problem such as a stroke, heart condition etc.

“The NHS is working hard to re-establish services whilst taking additional precautions for the foreseeable future and whilst Covid-19 remains a risk.”

His call has been echoed by NHS South West, which urged children and adults to continue getting their regular immunisations against MMR and whooping cough so long as they do not have symptoms or are not self-isolating.

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