As Professor Rob Doughty walked across a quiet courtyard towards Auckland Hospital, it seemed like just another workday morning. Ahead lay a busy schedule of appointments in the clinic with patients suffering from heart disease.
One of New Zealand’s most experienced cardiologists and a leading academic at the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Rob is also the Heart Foundation’s Chair of Heart Health. Rob knows as much about the heart as anyone. He has spent more than half his life working to prevent people dying prematurely of heart disease.
But at 8am on that April morning, Rob’s life was in immediate danger.
“I was literally between Auckland Hospital and the School of Medicine when I started getting pains in my chest. Then it came on pretty badly, with pain down my left arm and feeling sick. I felt faint, so sat down on a bench.”
Professor Rob Doughty knew the warning signs of a heart attack, but it took him a few minutes to recognise what was happening. It was a confusing time because he’d recently been sick with a persistent cough. He tried to rationalise it as being part of that. But when all the symptoms set in, Rob knew he was in trouble and that he had to get help.
Rob recovered from his heart attack and returned to work, but his experience shocked his family, friends and colleagues. As a healthy, 51-year old male, he was in the lowest part of the risk charts. Rob describes the ordeal as incredibly humbling and sobering.
As the Heart Foundation Chair in Heart Health, Rob wanted to help get the message across to the charity’s supporters that the warning signs of a heart attack have to be recognised and acted on within an hour.
He courageously shared his personal story in a mailing to 20,000 Heart Foundation supporters in its recent fundraising appeal, highlighting the critical need for immediate action when symptoms are felt.
“I wanted Heart Foundation supporters to know that the best chance of survival and recovery is to recognise symptoms and get help fast.”
Rob still doesn’t know why he had a heart attack. The only way to find answers is through continued research and this is enabled with on-going funding from the Heart Foundation to Professor Doughty and his team of researchers.