Focus on the Land
‘Incredible feeling to be alive’
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
“I DIED and I am so thankful to get a second chance at life” says heart attack survivor Matahi (Greg) Brightwell.
The 60-year-old suffered a near-fatal heart attack while coaching waka ama on the Waimata River 10 days ago.
Mr Brightwell was taken by ambulance to Gisborne Hospital initially, then flown to Waikato Hospital where tests showed a small clot had blocked one of the arteries in his heart.
“I suddenly felt no power in my hands as I was paddling along. That was the first sign something was wrong,” he said.
“I thought I was going to fall into the river when it started, so I made myself paddle to the shallows.”
He called for help to off- duty police officer Carolyn Hodgkinson, who was nearby, and she got him off the ski he was on and on to the bank.
“The specialists said my survival came down to micro-seconds and Carolyn did all the right things.”
It was lucky that he was not paddling out at sea, or paddling alone, he said.
Mr Brightwell says he “died” in the back of the ambulance when his heart stopped beating.
St John staff used a defibrillator to get it going again.
“All I remember of that moment is orange or yellow lights flashing from right to left, then white or silver light flashing the other way”, he says.
He remembers waking up in the hospital accident and emergency unit later.
Tests at Waikato Hospital showed no heart damage and that his heart was very healthy.
“The specialists said the quick actions of Carolyn, the ambulance officers and then the staff at Gisborne Hospital made the difference. The clot was dissolved before it could cause damage”.
He says the specialists were unable to say for sure what had caused the clot but felt it could have been linked to dehydration.
“The specialists said my healthy lifestyle and my fitness also helped save my life.
“I would like to encourage everyone to take good care of their health and to stay as fit as possible.’’
Mr Brightwell was told that 98 percent of people who suffer attacks like his do not survive.
He has received thousands of get-well texts, Facebook messages, emails and phone calls from around the world.
“The response from people has been very humbling.”
The near-death experience is going to force some reassessment in his life, he says.
“My mind has always told me what to do, now my body is telling me something different and I have to listen to it.”
He says he is going to have to reconsider the level of his commitment to his culture, the community and his sport.
“I will do that once I have talked to the specialists again in a couple of weeks. In the meantime it is an incredible feeling to still be alive.”
As well as thanking all those who have helped with his recovery to this point, he is also grateful for the support received from Te Wananga-o-Aotearoa, where he works as an art and waka ama tutor.
Matahi’s wife Raipoia says the whole family is just happy that they have been given a second chance to have him with them.
“We cannot believe that such a tiny clot could kill you. But it can,” she says.
SECOND CHANCE : Matahi Brightwell says it is great to still be alive and his wife Raipoia agrees. Picture by Paul Rickard
No comments - be the first to comment
June 21 marks the 100-day deadline for TV to go digital. Are you digital yet?
No, not yet
Doesn't apply to me
Send in your
Explore The Gisborne Herald
Letters to the Editor
Focus on the Land
64 Gladstone Road, PO Box 1143, Gisborne, New Zealand | Ph: +64 6 869 0600 | Fax: +64 6 869 0643 (editorial) | Fax: +64 6 869 0644 (advertising) | News Hotline: 0800 NEWSLINE (639 754) | firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © The Gisborne Herald