CHRIS ROBERTS had flu symptoms and was poorly for days before suffering a heart attack six years ago.
Had he sought assistance immediately, the dad-of-two may have avoided the scarring and blocked artery still with him to this day.
In the end his life was saved by the incredible doctors at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, and for that the 62 year-old is forever grateful.
But as Chris admits, prevention, early detection and after care are vital for vulnerable patients, which is why he is supporting a campaign by North Wales NHS charity Awyr Las (Blue Sky) to raise funds for a revolutionary mobile heart scanning vehicle that will allow clinicians to diagnose and perform assessments remotely in rural communities.
Having founded North Wales Dragons football club with sons Steven and Gareth, Chris has been raising awareness and funds for charities across the country for more than a decade.
He is fully behind this year’s popular NHS Big Tea event and the campaign to secure £66,000 for the cardiac diagnostic vehicle, which will save Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) vital resources, clinic space and reduce waiting times.
“This is a fantastic idea and will save countless lives by going out to people who are vulnerable, rather than them having to access care,” said Chris, from Colwyn Bay.
“Given the uncertainty and fear many still have about attending hospital this will give patients peace of mind, and I’m sure will have a positive impact on bringing down waiting times.
“As well as receiving care it’s important to educate people about the symptoms of heart damage and have a presence in the community, so I’m fully behind the appeal and will do all I can to help them.”
Chris wishes the vehicle had been around when he experienced first-hand how traumatic a cardiac arrest can be.
His early heart attack symptoms were ignored and just three days later he collapsed to the floor and was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
“I had thought nothing of the symptoms, I just thought I had a bad cold or the flu,” said Chris.
“When the paramedics arrived, they told me I had the heart rate of an Olympic athlete and it had dropped to around 40 beats per minute, which was alarming.
“My heart attack was due to two arteries that were blocked, and one that was 100% blocked; sadly, despite several procedures, there’s nothing they could do about that, and there is still damage and scarring to my heart, but it could have been so much worse.”
He added: “I will always be thankful to the doctors and health workers at Glan Clwyd’s Coronary Care Unit for saving my life and to supporters of Awyr Las for helping to fund the cardiac catheter lab where I was treated, but I wish it had not reached that point.
“I am still here because of them, and now this cardiac diagnostic vehicle will benefit people like me in the future.
“I urge people to do all they can to help raise funds for the cardiac diagnostic vehicle because it will make a big difference and save lives, believe me.”
A new Peugeot Boxer light commercial van has been sourced by a bespoke vehicle manufacturing company and will be converted into the remote medical unit complete with portable scanner, a computer desk, sink and cleaning facilities and an electric adjustable bed.
This vehicle will screen people who, like Chris, have had damage to the heart because of a heart attack or because of other causes, to see if they need medication to support their heart function and ease any symptoms they may have.
Kirsty Thomson, Head of Fundraising for Awyr Las, said: “Chris has been a big supporter of the charity for many years, so we are delighted to have his backing. His story is remarkable and will hopefully shine a light on the importance of this vital service and the need for a cardiac diagnostic vehicle in North Wales.”
Over the last 10 years, Awyr Las has received more than £25m in donations. That support has helped pay for state-of-the-art equipment and new facilities, staff training, world-class research, special projects, additional services, and extra patient comforts which are over and above what NHS funding can provide.
The charity is encouraging the public to join the nation’s biggest tea break and be part of a national outpouring of thanks while raising money for the incredible NHS workers who have been there for the nation over the last year. Everyone can take part by raising a mug or holding their own virtual or physical tea party on July 5.
To raise funds for the Cardiac Diagnostic Vehicle and sign up for the NHS Big Tea event, visit the website: www.awyrlas.org.uk/big-tea