February is Heart Month, so this month we want to share some incredibly moving heart stories from inspiring PureGym members – all to raise awareness of heart and circulatory disease.
Today’s heart story is from Adam, a PureGym member at PureGym Southhampton Central. Adam, unknowingly at the time, had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that led him to suffer a cardiac arrest during his regular gym class. His Personal Trainer, Andres, and the PureGym community saved his life by administering CPR with the defibrillator on site until the paramedics arrived. Here is Adam’s story:
2 years ago, I came in for one of my regular gym classes. About 25 minutes into the class, we went to take a rest and that’s when I dropped down dead. My heart stopped and I had a cardiac arrest because of a condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. A condition that I didn’t know I had until that day.
At the time of the incident, my overall health was good, I had a small amount of weight I wanted to shift but felt strong enough and active enough to apply myself at 100%.
On the day itself, I felt fine, normal just like any other day. I felt like I had the capabilities of anyone my age that was fit and healthy. There was zero indication that there was potentially something wrong with me just waiting to be triggered.
It got about 20 minutes into the class I was doing, and I started to feel lightheaded and found it difficult to catch my breath. I remember comparing myself to others to see if they were struggling. They were but not like me, something was different.
My vision had gone blurry, fuzzy even and I felt wobbly on my feet. I tried to squat down where my towel and water bottle was, thinking I needed to breathe and sip some fluids. I remember squatting on the floor, looking up one last time at the group and thinking the words “help”. I don’t know if I mouthed them or said them aloud. Then everything went black.
My Personal Trainer, Andres, who was also taking the class at the time noticed me collapsed, and he and some members rushed to my aid and started CPR, along with getting the defibrillator out and using this – the ambulance arrived shortly after.
Waking up felt strange, almost like slowly being woken from a deep sleep and a good dream. I had felt at peace like I just caught up after a busy week, only to find about half a dozen people looking down on me. I remember a voice sternly asking me who I was, where I was and what had happened.
After stating my name and the location of the gym I was told my heart had stopped. I think my response was in vain of expression of mild frustration followed by several expletives.
The crowd of emergency responders and a few other strong gym members helped me onto the stretcher and saw I left the gym in safe hands, with so many people looking out for me.
When I went to the hospital, I was greeted by a full cardiac response team. They one by one slowly left after various checks and tasks were completed indicating that I was in a stable condition and no emergency surgery was needed.
I was in the hospital just over a week and a half after a multitude of tests and minor surgeries revealed I had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, meaning I have a thickening on one of the walls of my heart.
This completely blew my mind. I had no idea of this condition. I’d spent the best part of 2 years losing weight, getting fit and taking part in all sorts of sporting events. I was on a trajectory for peak fitness, yet my heart had stopped beating.
That day has changed my life in so many ways.
I’ve never been afraid of death and accepted death as part of life very early on, but when it briefly happens to you it’s strange. I felt such peace without any kind of emotional pain. Even though I wasn’t brain dead I was clinically dead, and it wasn’t scary or painful. Yet being brought back and saved I feel I have a duty not only to those who saved me, but also myself and my loved ones to try and be around for as long as possible.
I won’t lie, the initial impact after my cardiac arrest and diagnosis was quite difficult. I had lots of goals and plans for the future, only to be suddenly told I couldn’t do those things gave me cause for depression.
Once my doctor cleared me to return to exercise, I tried to get back into fitness, but I was really struggling with my mental health. This occurred nine months before the Covid-19 pandemic, so just when I thought I found the strength to get back into a good fitness routine there were additional restrictions and lockdowns, and subsequently, gyms were forced to close too.
After the Covid restrictions had eased and gyms had reopened, I think I came to terms with my condition and how best to work with it going forward. I’ve had to make some adjustments and changes to my workouts, as I must avoid putting my heart under any sudden, intense, or prolonged pressure. But it felt good to be back in the gym, nevertheless.
It felt fantastic seeing Andres again, he has been with me throughout my whole recovery. I gained more than a personal trainer; I gained a friend. He’s been able to develop a coaching plan that’s perfect for my body type and condition. Going to the gym every week is fun for me, it’s the best part of my week.
Although I can’t take part in HIIT classes anymore, I can lift light weights in a steady routine to help keep the blood pumping without putting stress on my heart. So, now instead of heavy bodybuilding exercises, my focus has been more on strength and mobility.
The diagnosis really has awakened me to the fact we know very little about our body unless it’s too late. Heart health is very important to me, and hopefully my story will raise awareness of heart and circulatory disease and get more people thinking about their own heart health.
Inspired by Adam’s story? Learn how to save a life, like Andres and the PureGym community did for Adam. When unexpected things happen, it’s vital to know what to do.
With the help of British Heart Foundations life-saving free courses you can learn to do CPR and use a defibrillator in just 15 minutes on your mobile or tablet. Click here to find out more.
WE ARE PROUD TO BE THE OFFICIAL GYM PARTNER FOR THE BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION
We've partnered with the British Heart Foundation to help inspire a healthier nation, one heartbeat at a time. With the help of our partners (and heart experts!) the British Heart Foundation, we want to get more people thinking about their heart health.
Click here to find out more about our partnership with the British Heart Foundation and learn more about how to look after your heart health.