Mayor’s life changed forever after heart trouble

Words and photo by Dave Barry

The borough mayor has a strong personal reason for choosing Healthy Hearts as the theme for his year in office.

Cllr Joe Plant is supporting and raising awareness of local heart nurses who deliver patient care.

He wants to raise funds to buy equipment for them and for the heart-rehab team which helps patients along the road to recovery by looking after their health and fitness.

In addition, he is trying to raise awareness of the local British Heart Foundation (BHF) shops.

He says: “They thrive thanks to the generosity of local communities and the incredible people who work in them”.

The reason for the campaign is Cllr Plant’s experience of serious heart problems.

He says he remembers the day he became ill “as though it was yesterday”.

He was 49 and it was just another normal day, working in a garage.

“I was feeling a bit dizzy and it got worse as the afternoon wore on. I rang my wife Margaret and said I wasn’t feeling well. She said she would pick me up and take me to the doctors.

“At the time, I just thought I was coming down with a chest infection and wasn’t really worried about it”.

Cllr Plant had an ECG and wasn’t prepared for what happened next. “Getting blue-lighted to hospital was a scary thing to happen for both my wife and myself. I was in tears. My life as I had known it changed forever”.

He and the medics thought he had a chest infection. He was sent home with medication but didn’t get better.

He went back to the GP and ended up back in hospital. This time, he was treated for asthma, which runs in the family.

His health deteriorated and he and his wife grew seriously worried. “I was confused, as they could not diagnose me with anything, but I was determined not to let it get me down”.

Cllr Plant was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy in 2008 and has been in and out of hospital ever since.

He had a small stroke and has had heart failure twice and a cardiac arrest. He was diagnosed with mitral regurgitation and atrial fibrillation. He had a defibrillator implant in 2012 and was upgraded to a cardiac resynchronisation therapy pacemaker in 2016.

He says: “I cannot thank the heart consultants, doctors and nurses in Scarborough Hospital, James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, Whitby Hospital and my local GP surgery enough for their tremendous continuous care and support, not just for me but for my family as well; we have nothing but praise for them.

“It was life-changing and not just for me, but my family as well. I was feeling sorry for myself - angry, frustrated and upset, but you are allowed to be and I was determined not to let it beat me.

“With the professional care and my family and friends around me, I got through it and eventually learned to live again. What more motivation do you need to pick yourself up and move on than seeing your family growing up and grandchildren coming into the world?

“I know I am lucky to have survived and I treat every single day as a bonus. I am so happy with what I have got and now I just get on with it and live life to the full”.

He had to give up his job but is still a borough councillor and on 17 May, Cllr Plant became the mayor of the borough of Scarborough.

“I would advise anyone else who is going through an illness: don’t give up, don’t say you can’t do it; be determined and if you can do it, do it”.

* Cllr Plant has set up a Just Giving page to raise money for BHF’s research; search for Healthy Heart.