‘I didn’t realise I was having an actual heart attack’

The 99er Cycle Tour and MTB Challenge is an annual event that takes place in Cape Town in February. I was training for the Argus, so I thought if I signed up for the 78km ride it would be good preparation, but not too hard.

Then this happened…

Twenty kilometres into the race, I felt a burning sensation from my stomach into my chest. I’m a type-1 diabetic so I assumed I was just a little dehydrated. I drank some water and carried on. A little over halfway, the burning sensation intensified, but I kept sipping water and ate a banana.

Read more: “I felt completely normal but my blood pressure was through the roof”

I passed two paramedic stations, but each time I thought, Just hang in there for the next 20km. It will get better. Eventually I felt like I had a raging fire in my chest, arms and hands. The last 10km I was holding my handlebars with my pinkie fingers. The only thing that kept me going was my determination to finish the race.

When I finally crossed the finish line, I did my glucose tests and asked a paramedic for a drip to assist with high ketones and dehydration. When I also asked for heartburn meds, the paramedic spotted warning signs and rushed me to the ER.

But how, when I was so healthy?

Tests confirmed I had suffered a heart attack. I couldn’t believe it. I was the fittest I had ever been and had been following a vegetarian, low-GI diabetic diet for almost 20 years. I didn’t smoke, wasn’t overweight and had just been for a health check-up. Yet my arteries were so blocked that blood flow was less than 20%! Doctors blamed a combination of stress, genetic high cholesterol and my diabetes. Fortunately, thanks to my fitness regimen, my body had constructed an intricate web of little vessels around my heart to compensate – probably what saved me.

woman cyclist outdoors

Read more: 3 major things your resting heart rate can tell you about your health

Over the months that followed, I had three operations, including a five-artery bypass. I’ve since completed seven Pick n Pay Argus Cycle Tours and a six-day cycle tour in the south of France. Through my company, Pétanque Consultancy, I also sponsor the “Last Lady In” prize for the 99er race because I believe that sometimes just taking part and finishing the race are bigger achievements than winning.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za

Image credit: Supplied

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
33% - 9360 votes
67% - 19295 votes