Courtenay couple Doris McLaughlin and her husband Don share their stories about their respective heart attacks - and the unique symptoms - in hopes to spread awareness during heart month in February. Photo by Erin Haluschak

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

Doris McLaughlin and her husband Don thought of a good way to spend a Saturday in Comox last May: an art show followed by some lunch.

But as soon as she got out of the car, she felt the burning sensation of what she thought was acid reflux.

The feeling was persistent but normal, as she has a prescription for the condition. So McLaughlin, now 78, took some medication in the hopes it would soon dissipate.

But the feeling didn’t go away; not even her regular medication helped.

“We have a blood pressure machine at home, and I took my blood pressure around 4 p.m. that day. It was 190 (systolic) and I said we better go up to the emergency room,” she recalls.

She explained Don had suffered from a heart attack a year prior, but the symptoms she suffered were much different then what her husband experienced and admits it never crossed her mind she could be suffering from one as well.

Following a variety of tests at the hospital, McLaughlin burst into tears when the doctor told her she had just experienced a mild heart attack.

Following some time in hospital, she was transferred to Royal Jubilee in Victoria where her “difficult and complex” angioplasty resulted in her having six stents.

The couple wants to share their story – and their experiences leading up to their respective heart attacks – to bring awareness to the variety and types of symptoms experienced by both men and women.

February is heart month, which is used to bring attention to the importance of cardiovascular health and what individuals can do to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

McLaughlin said many of her friends ask to share her story, as she didn’t consider herself – nor her husband – the typical candidates to experience heart attacks; they exercise regularly, eat healthily and consider themselves to be in overall good health.

So a few days after she was released from hospital, she couldn’t believe when she started to feel the same pain as before in her chest.

They returned to the ER in Courtenay, and staff concluded she had another heart attack. She was kept in the intensive care unit until further discussion with her heart surgeon in Victoria, and it was determined she didn’t have a second one, rather, it was a residual effect from surgery.

“Because the angioplasty was complex and critical, it resulted from that. It’s like disturbing a muscle, and it takes time to recover.”

• • •

In February 2018, Don McLaughlin, now 80, was getting out of his hot tub outside his home when his body came crashing down. He skinned his knee and found himself in some pain.

He decided to take some pain killers to help. A few days later on his usual walk in the Lazo area, he cut it short as he felt sore from the fall, but found himself out of breath when he arrived at his car. He also had some tightness in his chest.

Doris suggested they go to the ER.

Following some blood work, a doctor told him he had suffered a heart attack about four hours prior – in the middle of their walk.

“The thing is, he looked fine. They kept asking him, but he wasn’t in any pain,” says Doris.

A few days later, Don was transported to hospital in Victoria where he had surgery to insert seven stents.

Since the incident, Don notes he remains active – he continues to shovel his driveway when it snows, he’s installed the fence around his Courtenay home and watches his diet.

The pair admits it was difficult at first to lose the fear of having another heart attack.

“I get nervous because I still get acid reflux,” explains Doris. “I had to tell myself it’s just reflux. Our blood is flowing better in our hearts than before.”

The McLaughlins continue to carefully monitor their blood pressure and regularly visit their doctors while taking their prescribed medication.

They remain active with skiing, walks and swimming.

“We feel very, very, very fortunate,” says Doris with a smile.

For more information about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack for women and men, visit heartandstroke.ca.



photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BC Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

New tee pads installed at Wycliffe Disc Golf Course, new course built near Radium

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the East Kootenay Disc Golf Club… Continue reading

Kimberley paramedics share experiences working during COVID

Paramedics are among those workers who were unable to work from home… Continue reading

Ktunaxa elder leaves legacy of courage, resilience and mentorship

Herman Alpine helped Ktunaxa move on from Residential School era, was key in revitalization of language

Work set to begin on passing lane near Jaffray

The province says work will soon begin on a westbound passing lane… Continue reading

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

B.C. tent camps persist as hotels, housing bought for homeless

Current estimate 40 camps, homeless counts stalled by COVID-19

Most Read