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11 February 2010

Reality check

Ian Scher (57), CEO of Rescue South Africa, aids in disasters such as the recent Pakistan earthquake. It was a shock when he found out he had heart disease.

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When 57-year-old Ian Scher felt the first pains in his chest 10 years ago, he put it down to indigestion and didn’t bother to mention it to anyone.

Ian, who is the CEO of Rescue South Africa, knew he was a bit overweight, but he’d just given up smoking up to 90 cigarettes a day. At the time, he was blissfully unaware of the fact that heart disease kills 2.5 times as many people as all cancers combined.

Two weeks after quitting, he suffered his first heart attack. Fortunately, it was a mild attack, which necessitated two coronary artery stents being used to clear his blocked arteries.

“In some ways, it wasn’t really a huge shock, as I knew I hadn’t been living a healthy lifestyle. From being very active in my youth, I now found I wasn’t doing any exercise apart from the volunteer emergency rescue work I did at the time,” Ian says.

After this first attack, Ian was confronted with mixed feelings. “At the beginning I found it hard to deal with. Everyone feels they have to tell you how to live your life, and you resent it. But perhaps inside you know things have to change.”

Another attack

However, it wasn’t until he had his second attack in 2002, requiring stents to be put in yet again, that the reality of his situation really hit home. “This time I knew I had to do something about it – my family deserved it.” Ian’s wife was both terribly frightened and really angry.

“I decided to listen to my specialist, to lose weight and to go to the gym, which I do five to six times a week now. I’ve never gone back to smoking and still go for regular check-ups.”

Although he has gained some of the kilos he initially lost, Ian now keeps a close eye on his weight and is determined to reach his goal weight. “It’s a pity that it takes something like a heart attack to get people like me to sit up and take notice.”

(Marion Scher, Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, October 2007)

 
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