"The secret is to stay positive" 

Chauffeur Alec Keep, aged 66 when interviewed, had a heart bypass in March 2007 in Papworth Hospital, after he had two heart attacks.

"I had the first heart attack in November 2006. It came as a complete surprise. I hadn't had any symptoms, I was active and thought I was quite fit, although people had commented that I sounded out of breath on occasion. It was like a band of pain across my chest.

"The British Heart Foundation had just launched its "Doubt Kills" poster campaign, which urged you to call 999 if you have chest pain. I passed the poster on my way home and it saved my life. Someone was with me within four or five minutes. I was rushed into Bedford Hospital, where I stayed for eight days.

"A few weeks later I went back to the hospital for an angiogram, which showed that three of my coronary arteries were blocked. I was told I would need to have a heart bypass. I had the second heart attack in January while I was waiting for the bypass appointment and stayed in hospital until I had the bypass.

"My way of coping with the operation was not to discuss it with any hospital staff beforehand. I knew roughly what was going to happen but I didn't want to know anything else. I was confident they had found out what was wrong and were going to fix it. Even when the anaesthetist came down before the operation, I didn't want to discuss it. I was fine until the day before when I phoned my wife and we both started crying.

"On the day of the operation I had an injection to relax me and a shot to put me out. The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room covered in drains, wires and drips. I stayed there until the next day and was then taken to the ward.

"They try to get you active quickly. The day after the operation I sat in the chair while they made my bed. After three days I was walking round my bed and I gradually got stronger and stronger. Six days after the operation the physio came and checked that I could walk up and down the stairs. I was able to go home the next day.

"I was so pleased to be home. I had to take it slowly at first and I felt tired, but I've been walking every day and I'm now doing about 40 minutes a day. At first I took painkillers to control the pain in my chest. The sister at the hospital said: "Don't be a hero. If you can't breathe in and out because of the pain you won't be able to breathe properly." I'm pain-free during the day now, but I take a couple of painkillers before I go to bed because I tend to toss and turn a bit at night and can't get comfortable.

"I was driving again after a month, but I'm not allowed to take passengers yet. The scar in my chest is getting a lot better and looks very neat. The scar in my leg where they took the vein from has almost healed. To tell the truth, I haven't had the urge for sex since the first heart attack. We've been married for 44 years and my wife is great. I do find my concentration isn't quite what it was, but it's getting better every day.

"Throughout it all I've tried to stay positive and have a laugh. After all, a heart bypass is an everyday occurrence now and there's only a 4% failure rate. The way I coped was to believe that the doctors were going to do a proper job and they did."




Page last reviewed: 16/12/2015

Next review due: 30/06/2018