PEI

'It just doesn't happen to people my age': Meet a 33-year-old heart attack survivor

33-year-old Rob Diamond says he thought he was too young to have a heart attack but looking back, all the signs were there.

'You never think you're having a heart attack'

Rob Diamond thanks the medical crews who swiftly diagnosed his heart attack and helped get him on the path to recovery. (Laura Meader/CBC )

Rob Diamond says looking back the signs were there, but when he had a heart attack on Oct. 30 he kept thinking it must be something else. 

The 33-year-old called 911 three times, hanging up twice. 

"The first two times I hung up 'cause I was a little bit nervous and I didn't want to embarrass [myself] or waste anyone's time," Diamond said. 

"You never think you're having a heart attack."

He had just played soccer that night and wasn't feeling great when he got home. Despite feeling very nauseous and exhausted, he got ready for his night shift at a local hotel and started walking to work. 

Rob Diamond sits in an ambulance at Island EMS talking about the experience, which he described as 'cramping, numbing, but not a sharp pain.' (Laura Meader/CBC )

"I kind of told myself I was being a wimp and to stop sulking and just to get up and keep walking," he said. 

"I couldn't continue any further."

He sat down on a curb near a gas station and Diamond said although he was violently ill, he didn't feel much pain. 

"A lot of times you see in movies you see people grabbing their chest and falling over, there wasn't that kind of pain."

When paramedics hooked Rob Diamond up to the monitor, it was clear he was having heart problems. 'There was a blockage or an event going on,' says Kelsey Pollard, an advanced care paramedic. (Laura Meader/CBC)

When his arms went numb, that's when Diamond thought it was probably a heart attack. 

"That's what really kicked it in, my arms being so asleep," he said. 

When the paramedics arrived, they swiftly determined he was having a major heart attack. 

Fast response saved his life

Diamond said he was treated initially at the QEH in Charlottetown and then went on to the hospital in Saint John, N.B. 

He describes the whole experience as "surreal" and he believes the paramedics saved his life. 

"They acted incredibly," he said. 

Paramedics Kelsey Pollard and Alex Lutes with Rob Diamond. 'We're just happy we were there,' says Lutes. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Kelsey Pollard and Alex Lutes are the paramedics with Island EMS who answered the call.

Pollard said when they first got the call about a male in his 30s feeling unwell, they weren't thinking heart attack. 

As soon as they hooked up a heart monitor, Pollard said, it was clear things were serious. 

"We both looked at [the monitor] and we were like, holy," said Pollard. "He was having not just a heart attack, but a very significant heart attack."

Lutes said it's common for people to brush off the symptoms and think they mean something else.  

He said symptoms could include feeling weak, paleness, shortness of breath, sweating, pain and discomfort. 

"If you think something is wrong, either call 911 or go to the hospital," he said. 

Treated in Saint John

Diamond said he's since learned that he had two partial blockages in the arteries leading to the heart and a tear in one artery.

He had a stent put in at the hospital in Saint John. The tube-shaped device keeps blood flowing to the heart. He has also been prescribed several medications. 

As a 33-year-old you're not thinking of a finality to it all.— Rob Diamond

Diamond said medical staff told him it was rare to see someone his age in this type of situation. Testing has shown his body has trouble processing cholesterol. 

"It just doesn't happen to people my age," he said. 

Extremely tired for weeks before

The day of the heart attack, Diamond said he kept thinking maybe he was just tired and dehydrated from soccer, but looking back he now sees the signs were there.

"I didn't realize how sick I was feeling for so long," Diamond said.

He said he wasn't sleeping well, extremely tired for months, and in different types of pain at times. 

Diamond shows the medication he's been taking since the heart attack. (Laura Meader/CBC )

"It's important to be in touch with yourself," he said. "As a 33-year-old you're not thinking of a finality to it all."

He said his advice to others is to trust in themselves if they are not feeling right. He said he hopes by sharing his story, other people find confidence to ask for help or maybe get a needed medical checkup. 

"Trust in yourself to know the difference between being sick, and not being sick or being seriously ill," he said. 

"I definitely didn't accept what was happening until I was literally being taken to Saint John."

Looking forward to the future

Diamond said he feels invigorated now and wants to be healthy. 

The heart attack got him thinking about his future, he said. Diamond asked his girlfriend to marry him shortly after his experience.

Diamond proposed to his girlfriend, Leah Campbell, after his heart attack and the two are now engaged. 'Life is really short,' says Campbell. (Laura Meader/CBC)

His now fiancée, Leah Campbell, had made him promise to call 911 if things got worse on the evening of his heart attack.

Diamond said the fact that he called at all was thanks to her. 

"I still can't believe it, it's unbelievable," said Campbell. "We're just really happy he's OK."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.

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