Tony Hickmore was struck down by two heart attacks in two years. Five years later, the 60-year-old Lyall Bay man is fighting fit and leading the masters age group of the State Ocean Swim Series.
The grandfather's heart troubles began in 2008 when he thought he had a head cold.
"Each time I had a swimming race I was getting a pain in my chest and breathlessness . . . I just brushed the physical feeling aside and told myself to harden up."
He had high cholesterol but was on medication so didn't think twice about his heart being the problem.
When the situation did not improve he went to his GP, who ordered blood tests that revealed he had arterial blockages.
He then had three stents surgically inserted into his heart.
Mr Hickmore was easing back into swimming when another heart attack nearly killed him while he was in the Raumati Pool.
A lifeguard noticed he had a strange look on his face before slipping under the water.
"They did CPR for about 16 minutes till the ambulance arrived and they defibbed me back to life.
"One of my best mates who had the same heart attack didn't get the immediate attention and he's not here today, which is pretty scary."
He had a defibrillator implanted into his chest, which sends electric shocks to his heart if it stops.
Mr Hickmore is now raising money for the Heart Foundation via its heart racer website where people can sponsor him for the ocean swim series.
"If anything, I would like to see men get a little bit more in tune with their body. If things aren't right go and get it checked."
The foundation's heart health advocate, Cathy McGachie, said it was working with primary health organisations to get people aged 45 or older into their GP for a heart check, no matter what their health. Pacific and Maori people should have the check when they are aged 35 or older.
These checks are part of the national health targets, which all district health boards are required to meet. "Heart disease is the number one cause of death above each separate cancer," Mrs McGachie said.
With three races to go in the State Ocean Swim Series, Mr Hickmore is currently leading.
He will compete in the fourth race at Akaroa this weekend. The races range from 2.8 kilometres to 3.3km.
"I'm still beating guys that are 15 to 10 years younger than me - I'm doing all right."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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