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

Just Posted

Boundary hospital ‘ready for a surge,’ hoping it never comes

The emergency department director confirmed there were active COVID-19 cases in the Boundary

COVID-19: Interior Health orders closure of all fitness centres until May 30

The order is subject to revision, cancellation, or extension

FortisBC pausing power disconnections and late-fees amid COVID-19 crisis

Company says they plan to work with customers affected by COVID-19 on a “one on one” basis

Grand Forks and Boundary cancellations, changes due to COVID-19

This newspaper’s list of community events, institutions that change or cancel due to pandemic

Don’t avoid doctor’s office if you need help, say Kootenay Boundary physicians

There are alternatives to coming in physically to offices, docs say

From inside the ER: B.C. doctor tells it like it is from the frontlines of COVID-19

‘Stay home. It’s working,’ says ER doctor in a Q&A discussion, ‘And please don’t worry.’

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Trudeau commits $100M to help food banks amid COVID-19 crisis

Funds will help ‘urgent food needs’ for Canadians awaiting federal emergency benefits to kick in

Couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas: Cowichan by-law

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

How well can cell phones carry COVID-19? Disinfecting may be wise

‘You want to keep it as clean as you would normally your hands’

3M pushes back on Trump administration call to stop sending N95 masks to Canada

3M says it has already been turning out as many of the N95 masks as possible

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Most Read