Heart attack shows radio star he must clean up act
Breakfast radio announcer Sam Coward is leaning on his trademark humour while realising he has no choice but to clean up his act.
Mr Coward, who for the past six years has worked at Coast FM station Hot 91, has just scraped into the 20 per cent of people who survive the type of heart attack that hit him in the early hours of Wednesday last week.
He was bold enough to livestream his transfer through a hospital emergency ward while he was having the attack but has been left in no doubt as to the seriousness of his health situation.
The 40-year-old woke about 1am with excruciating pain in his chest.
"A week before I had experienced the same sort of sensation and believed it was indigestion," Mr Coward said.
He said he cleared the first episode with a burp, a cigarette and a swim at the beach.
"It kind of worked so on Wednesday night I thought it was the same thing."
He said he did everything he could.
"I tried to make myself burp, tried to make myself vomit, I did star jumps in my jocks in the living room, I did everything to try and clear it and it didn't clear.
"I went 'OK it's actually really hurting now' and so my wife said 'that's enough', (and) called an ambulance."
Paramedics ran tests before telling him he was having a heart attack.
"Once they confirm that, it's all systems go," he said.
He has since learned the initial episode he had a week earlier was also a heart attack.
"I thought I was being a hero by not going to see a doctor for eight years when really that is the dumbest thing to do because I had no check or measure over what was going on.
"I probably would have discovered sooner that I had high blood pressure and heart disease of some sort."
Doctors told him the second heart attack he survived usually killed eight out of 10 people.
They also told him smoking was the biggest contributing factor to his heart attacks.
He put his survival down to a health kick he started about three months ago, which has helped him shed 27kg.
"It's probably what saved my life in the end because if I was any less strong or fit, frankly, they said I would be cooked."
He said he smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day for the past 26 years, a habit he has now kicked.
"I've been horrible to this body," he said.
"Making 40 was a big effort and something that surprised myself and a lot of others.
"I've been very, very uncool over the years with lifestyle choices."
Mr Coward said he had a lot of changes to make, including following a daily medication schedule, but would not be moving away from the health kick he started.
"The prognosis is good if you do the right thing - don't smoke, fix your life up and take the tablets."
The experience has been surreal and terrifying as well for his wife of 18 years, Xanthe and their daughter Poppy, 14.
"Xanthe is very pragmatic," Mr Coward said.
"She is awesome in a crisis.
"She just goes into sort of robot mode where it is all about the facts."
He said being "vulnerable and fallible and broken" in front of his daughter was a big thing for her.
"It's been a big thing for me to show her that.
"But she is an amazing kid and so wise.
"To be told by a doctor you were seconds away from death is a bit scary."
He has been in Sunshine Coast University Hospital since the heart attack.
He wished he had called for medical assistance sooner, as the delay had worsened damage to his heart.
"They reckon two to six weeks I should be off, so I'll be back at work Monday," he said with a laugh.
His mood changed though when asked about well wishes, flowers and gifts that had flowed in response to his ill health.
"I've been really humbled," he said.
"It's like I have died and there has been this outpouring of grief or something.
"It has actually been so sweet and so ridiculously humbling I can't explain.
"I get a bit emotional thinking about it."
He was also very grateful for the care he received, from the first responders right through to hospital specialists.
"I honestly wouldn't be here without them.
"They are so professional, so slick."
His message was simple.
"If I had a clock to turn anything back I would it would be not to start smoking.
"Smoking has been the single greatest contributor to why I am here."
In his typical style, he reverted back to his use of humour as a coping mechanism.
"I actually have the acclaim, which I am proud of, to be the first person to do an Instagram live, mid heart attack, in emergency at Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
"I think that is pretty cool.
"The look on everyone's face was hilarious.
"They were like 'dude, you are in the middle of having a heart attack'.
"And I went 'yeah, and I'm not dead yet, so let's do the video'.
"It was funny."