A jolt like Peter Robinson's heart attack puts work into perspective
Heart attack - two of the most chilling words in the medical dictionary.
It used to be the greatest cause of death in Northern Ireland until overtaken by that most insidious of diseases, cancer, in its myriad of forms.
What marks heart attacks as different from most serious illnesses is that it often strikes out of the blue. On Sunday evening Peter Robinson probably had not the slightest inkling of the drama that would unfold during the night and lead to him being rushed to hospital, undergoing tests and an unknown procedure.
He is fortunate that he sought attention quickly when he felt unwell and was treated within that "golden" first hour, which can make such a difference to the prognosis.
Those of us who have had relatives who suffered heart disease can readily empathise with his family.
Suddenly all their previous priorities are as naught, with their sole concern now the condition of Mr Robinson and his recovery.
I had a close relative who suffered a heart attack followed by scores of severe angina episodes. Living as he did in the Glens of Antrim, there was always that seemingly endless wait until paramedics or cardiac specialists arrived to transport him to hospital.
On a couple of occasions the ambulance had to halt on the long journey to Antrim Area Hospital while he was revived in the back.
For his distraught wife following in her car, the immediate thought always was that he would not recover, but he did.
The other thing about heart attacks is the genetic influence.
Many of us will have known people we regarded as both fit and living a healthy lifestyle who subsequently suffered an attack. It was only later that we learned it was a common enough problem in that family.
Mr Robinson may have been a familiar face in Northern Ireland politics for a very long time, but he always looks younger than his 66 years and seems in fine trim.
Yet politics, especially his role at First Minister in a warring Executive, is a very stressful occupation. It is a job which owes its existence only to the favour of the electorate and trying to do the right thing while mindful of backwoods elements within your own party and being constantly sniped at by political foes makes it no easy ride for any political leader.
This week Mr Robinson's focus was concentrated on yet another crisis at Stormont due to the impasse over the Welfare Reform Bill.
How unimportant that is now to him and to his family. He and they are simply concerned about his welfare.
That for them is a real crisis.
No doubt, however, the Robinson family are grateful for the good wishes expressed for the First Minister's speedy recovery by some of his sternest political critics as well as the Prime Minister and Scotland's First Minister.
Beneath the public image politicians can be caring human beings too.
But essentially this is a family concern.
It is they who will be carefully monitoring his recovery, hoping that the treatment he has already received and the ongoing care will see him on a steady road to recovery and home.
And it is they who will impress on him the need to ensure that his all-consuming passion for politics is not at the expense of his health, now and in the future.
Politicians from all hues join forces to wish First Minister a speedy recovery
Prime Minister David Cameron: “My best wishes to Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, who is in hospital. I hope he has a speedy recovery.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s representative in Northern Ireland, Gary Hart: “I and my colleagues in the US Government were very concerned to learn that Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson was admitted to hospital earlier today. Our thoughts are with him and his family and we wish him a prompt return to full health.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon: “Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson.”
Ukip leader Nigel Farage: “Very sorry to hear about Peter Robinson, wishing him a speedy recovery”
The Rev Kyle Paisley, son of the late former First Minister and DUP leader Lord Paisley: “Thoughts and prayers with Peter Robinson & his family at this very difficult time (2 Cor.12:9)”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness: “Concerned to hear First Minister Peter Robinson has been admitted to hospital. My thoughts and prayers are with him, Iris and family”
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams: “Peter Robinson in hospital. I hope he is ok.”
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds: “Best wishes to Peter Robinson for a quick and full recovery. All our thoughts and prayers are with Peter and family. God bless.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt: “I am sorry to hear that the First Minister has been taken into hospital this morning and I wish Peter a full and speedy recovery. Our thoughts are with him and his family.”
Former East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long: “Thoughts with Peter Robinson and the family this morning. Wishing him a speedy recovery.”
Alliance leader David Ford: “On behalf of the Alliance Party I would like to send Peter Robinson my best wishes. I hope he will be able to make a speedy recovery.”
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister: “I was very sorry to hear that Peter Robinson was admitted to hospital this morning. My thoughts and my prayers are with him and his family at this very concerning time.”
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell: “I am very sorry to hear that Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has been taken into hospital this morning. I would like to extend the thoughts, prayers and best wishes of both myself and my SDLP colleagues to Peter Robinson and his family at this stressful time. I wish Peter a full and speedy recovery.”
PUP councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston: “Wishing Peter Robinson a speedy recovery and good health.”