Widow urges heart checks

MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014
Marion Davey and John Tamanui,

IN MEMORY: Marion Davey lost her husband, John Tamanui, 49, to a heart attack this time last year.

Marion Davey
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
WAKEUP CALL: Marion Davey does not want her husband's death to be in vain.

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He died on the floor of their dream home, clutching at his heart.

Moments before Wellington man John Tamanui collapsed, he was rubbing his chest and telling his wife how he and his mates had been "feeling a bit old last night".

They had been out at last year's sevens, partying with the rest of the fans - and the next morning, Marion Davey thought her usually cheeky, lively husband was just a bit hung over.

Afterwards, she realised his malaise was more likely because of an imminent heart attack.

It has been a year since Mr Tamanui died, after a lump of cholesterol dislodged and blocked a coronary artery. It happened almost instantly, with Ms Davey leaving the room for a matter of minutes and returning to find her husband lying on the floor, gasping his last breath.

They had moved into their first home in Island Bay just five months earlier.

Mr Tamanui, a film industry worker, was just 49, and on the anniversary of his death Ms Davey, a film production co-ordinator, wants his story to act as a warning to other Kiwi blokes.

While Mr Tamanui was relatively healthy - playing golf and working a physical job as a film transport manager - there was a long history of heart disease in his family.

Ms Davey found this out only at his tangi, when she walked through the urupa, or burial site, at Mangatu Marae, near Gisborne, and saw how many men had died too young.

"I think what no-one had really realised is there's obviously a genetic predisposition to heart conditions, and everyone needs to get checked.

"If [John's death] is going to be for anything, it's got to be to make sure everyone goes to get a check."

Ms Davey has now begun volunteering at the Heart Foundation, to help push the importance of health checks. She will be helping with the non-profit organisation's street appeal today and tomorrow.

Heart Foundation medical director Norman Sharpe said a New Zealander died of heart disease every 90 minutes. Eating healthily, quitting smoking, being more active and reducing cholesterol can help avoid premature death.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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