'I suffered my heat attack at the age of 36'
Sinead Scullion (42), from Desertmartin, and her 42-year-old husband Paul, an engineering manager, have three daughters, Ciara (10), Hannah (9) and Chloe (6). She worked in human resources until she had a heart attack six years ago, when she was just 36. She says:
I felt a really sharp, stabbing pain between my shoulder blades. I sat down on a chair. I felt so warm. Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead. I moved onto the sofa and then the pain moved to beneath my left armpit. It was Friday, January 28, 2009. Chloe was born two weeks earlier and the health visitor had been at our house for a routine mother and baby check up. Everything was fine. It was only about 15 minutes after she left, around 10am, that the severe pain started.
"Initially Paul thought it was a muscle spasm but when I started having difficulty breathing he phoned my GP and an ambulance was sent out. They did an ECG and ruled out heart problems. They gave me morphine and I began to slip in and out of consciousness. We were a couple of minutes away from the A&E department at the Mid-Ulster Hospital when I went into cardiac arrest.
"I remember coming round and hearing someone counting '23, 24...', and feeling as though someone was punching me very hard in the stomach and I became aware they were doing chest compressions. I was there for less than an hour before I was taken to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital by a police-escorted ambulance. They found a clot had travelled to the back of my heart.
"One artery was completely blocked, the other 98%, so they operated and inserted two stents. My family were told to expect the worst. Doctors considered sending me to hospital in England for a heart transplant but I wouldn't have survived the journey. I spent almost three weeks in intensive care. They carried out a lot of tests, and they all came back fine. I had no undiagnosed medical condition and there were no issues with lifestyle.
"I'm on eight different tablets a day for the rest of my life. I had to give up my job because I suffer from fatigue and dizziness. It was difficult for us financially. Paul was off work for eight months to look after the girls.
"But I learned to accept a new normal. I went to several cardiac rehab classes and learned to understand my body and how to exercise to keep my heart strong. I live day by day. Life is good.
"I I am very grateful that I'm alive because I know how close to death I was."