Heart failure: What to do before the final attack

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By Gbemileke Albert

Life is like a shadow and it passes by quickly. This year alone, in a spate of 8 months, many “souls” have met their maker. The first incidence happened on January 1st this year. It was around 7:25 in the evening. Suddenly, one of my neighbours started screaming – Baba Bola, Baba Bola, Baba Bola, wake-up, wake-up, wake up! Within seconds, her cry for help engulfed the neighbourhood. I quickly stormed out of my apartment in order to give her a helping hand. But, when I got there, the man had already been gasping for breath. Before we could “rush” him to one of the hospitals in the neighbourhood, he gave up the ghost around 7.36. He died at the age of 59 plus. Unfortunately, he was buried on his 60th birthday. He was to clock 60 years on April 6.

Four months subsequent to the January occurrence, a former course-mate of mine called from Lagos. She was bereaved. According to her, she had a wedding party to attend alongside her husband on Saturday May 11. At about 7:55 in the morning, as she was preparing herself ready for the event; her husband was busy washing the car outside. But, when it was her husband’s turn to have his bath, something strange happened. Inside the bathroom, he suddenly collapsed on his feet. Before his wife could call for help, the unthinkable happened – the man bite the dust at the age of 58; leaving behind three children: one boy and two girls.

Three months after her devastating ordeal, another catastrophe happened again. A staunch choir member of my local church here in Abeokuta, Dr. Stephen Ijeuwe had gone to attend the National Conference of Association of Resident Doctors in Bayelsa State, suddenly slumped on the wee hour of Thursday 25th July; and before help could come his way, right inside the hospital in Bayelsa State, he bade the world goodbye. Dr. Stephen was in his late thirties when he died last month. Until his untimely death, Dr. Stephen Ijeuwe was a Medical Doctor at the Federal Medical Center, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.

Sadly, during last week, another tragedy struck. A “distant friend” turned neighbour – Gbenga Davies, all of a sudden, slumped after watching a football match. Before help could arrive, Gbenga Davies packed up at the age of 46.

It can be called heart failure or heart attack; or better still, cardiac arrest. All the same, it is the unexpected loss of heart functioning which suddenly disrupts pumping action and stops blood flow to the rest of the body. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) including heart attack, cardiac arrest, strokes, claimed an estimated 19.6 million people in 2018, representing 44% of all global deaths.

Before now, Nigeria has lost quite a number of outstanding citizens to cardiovascular attack. On October 10, 2015, a former Governor of Bayelsa State – Alamieyeseigha, died of the attack. In November 1, 2017, Bola Tinubu, a renowned national leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), also lost his son – Jide Tinubu to cardiac arrest.

Heart attack is no respecter of persons. Even those who undergo rigorous physical exercise on daily basis are not immune to the attack. Stephen Keshi, nicknamed “The Big Boss”, the only Nigeria-born coach to have won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 also died of the attack on June 8, 2016 at the age of 54. Next after Keshi was Ugochukwu Ehiogu, also a Nigeria-born ex-England International. Ehiogu, suddenly broke down at the training ground of Tottenham Hotspur, where he was administrating the U-23 team. Ugochukwu died on April 20, 2017 at age 44.

Heart failure can happen to any human being regardless of age, profession or race. But, before then, these are the symptoms to look out for:

+ Shortness of breath

+ Fatigue and weakness

+ Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet

+ Rapid or irregular heartbeat

+ Reduced ability to exercise

Signs you should not ignore:

+ Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm

+ Increased need to urinate at night

+ Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)

+ Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention

+ Lack of appetite and nausea

+ Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness

+ Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus

+ Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack

When to see a doctor:

Seek emergency treatment if you experience any of the following:

+ Chest pain

+ Fainting or severe weakness

+Rapid or irregular heartbeat associated with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting

+Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus

Albert Gbemileke writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State

# adieugbengadavies

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# albertleke @gmail.com

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