Mother-of-three Clare McStay has become an ambassador for the charity Wessex Heartbeat after it helped her family when she had a massive heart attack.
Clare, from Pilley near Lymington, awoke during the night of October 5, 2015 with terrible pain in her wrist and jaw.
She later came round in resuscitation at Southampton General Hospital’s cardiac unit where she was told she had suffered a massive heart attack.
Clare said: “I was 35, fit and healthy.
“On the day of my heart attack I had been out walking with my daughter in her pushchair. It was a day like no other.
“Hours later I had a heart attack and was going in for emergency surgery to widen my blocked arteries.”
Clare learned her arteries were almost completely blocked and she now had dangerous blood clots forming in them.
She began an intensive drug regime and the slow and painful road to recovery.
But just months later, during a routine angiogram, her body suffered an anaphylactic reaction causing huge damage to her heart and she was told she needed a quintuple heart bypass.
A quintuple bypass is a highly complicated procedure which involves blood vessels being taken from another area of the body, in Clare’s case her left leg, and then being grafted onto the damaged heart vessels.
She said: “Following the bypass I was put in back in cardiac intensive care on life support.
“The surgery had gone well but my heart could not support my body.
“My poor husband Paul, and other close family, were again by my side 24 hours a day, willing me to get better.”
During that time, Paul came into contact with the charity Wessex Heartbeat.
Wessex Heartbeat began fundraising for the Wessex Cardiac Unit at Southampton Hospital in 1992, and has since raised £15.8 million to provide crucial improvements, cutting-edge equipment, clinical education and research.
The charity also runs Heartbeat House, a home from home for families from across Dorset and Wessex whose loved ones are being treated at Southampton General Hospital.
Clare said: “The key to a Heartbeat House room was pressed into Paul’s hand on the day of my surgery.
“He was dazed, exhausted and had no idea whether I was going to pull through, but he was told he could walk across the road from the hospital and find a comfy room , a welcoming kitchen and other people who were watching their loved ones go through similar difficulties and we are all so thankful for that.”
Following weeks of hospitalisation, months of an intensive drug regime and with a determination to survive for her three children, Clare has battled back from the brink.
She said: “The doctors have pretty much concluded that I am unique;
“I have never smoked, taken drugs (a common cause of heart attacks in people my age) and I eat well.
“They now think I had a virus as a child called Kawasaki Disease which attacked my arteries.
“All I know is that my latest scan showed my heart is working at 45 per cent – not great – but a huge improvement compared to last February.
“My life has changed irreversibly and I can’t do many of the things I once could, but and I am really lucky to be here. And now my family and I want to do something for Wessex Heartbeat to show our appreciation.”
Clare’s daughter Emily, nine, has already raised £1200 for Wessex Heartbeat by holding a cake sale at South Baddesley Primary School, Lymington, where she is a pupil.
Clare will be working to help publicise the charity and its projects in 2017.
Wessex Heartbeat chief executive John Munro, said: “Heartbeat House hosts people from across Wessex – including the parents and siblings of poorly children, the relatives of people who have had sudden heart attacks and also people whose loved ones are undergoing complex, cardiac surgery.
“Many of these people are facing some of the most frightening times of their lives, and Heartbeat House enables them to stay in comfort close by for as long as they need, be it days, weeks or even months.
“But this would not be possible without Wessex Heartbeat and the tireless work of its supporters, like Clare McStay and her family.
“We hope Clare’s inspirational story will encourage more people to come forward and support us in 2017.”
To become a fundraiser for Wessex Heartbeat or to find out more about sponsoring a room at Heartbeat House please visit: www.heartbeat.co.uk or call: 023 8070 6095.