Prompting calls for heart checks
Wurruk resident Adrian Dixon clinically died during a heart stress test in 2017, only to be revived by none other than the recently retired Sale doctor, Dr Rob Ziffer.
After reading about Dr Ziffer’s retirement, Mr Dixon felt an overwhelming sense of determination to share his story and emphasise to the community the importance of checking your heart health and maintaining routine health checks.
In late January 2017, Adrian and his wife Julie Dixon were walking a cliff trail at Aireys Inlet on a family holiday when the couple noticed something wasn’t right.
Mr Dixon could not walk more than 20 metres without needing to stop and catch his breath.
A concerned wife, Mrs Dixon, turned to her brother-in-law, Dr Donald McColl, looking for answers.
“I said ‘why is he out of breath all the time’,” Mrs Dixon explained.
“He keeps stopping; he has stopped twice in just a short distance.”
Dr McColl advised Mr Dixon to get a stress test as soon as possible, so the moment the couple returned to Sale, they were on the phone organising an appointment.
Mr Dixon proceeded to Sale Hospital on February 16, 2017, for a cardiovascular stress test.
“I was booked in at the Sale Hospital to have this stress test, and Dr Ziffer was the cardiologist doing the test,” Mr Dixon began.
“During the stress test, I completely conked out.
“I was on a bicycle, and they put an IV in my arm, they stuck ECG monitors to my chest and all that was connected to Dr Ziffer’s computer.
“So, I am on the bicycle, going as hard as I can, and I said to Dr Ziffer, ‘I am feeling a little bit dizzy’.
“Because it’s a stress test, he said to go a little bit harder.
“I was looking at the numbers on the bicycle that tell you how fast you are going and trying to push even harder.
“Then it all started to drop.
“The next thing I know, I am laying on my back, on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, and all these nurses were standing over me.
“They explained what had happened to me and that Dr Ziffer had got me back again after compressions on my chest; they’d put adrenaline into me.
“If Dr Ziffer hadn’t been there, if I hadn’t been at Aireys Inlet and got the advice to get a stress test, if I hadn’t been there at that particular time, doing that stress test right then, I would be in heaven,” Mr Dixon exclaimed.
“What happened was, the aortic valve at the bottom of my heart was completely clogged up, and while I was under the stress test, no blood was getting out.
“My heart stopped.
“And Dr Ziffer brought me back into the land of the living.”
Mr Dixon was rushed to Melbourne for an aortic valve replacement and double bypass through open-heart surgery, returning home to Wurrik three days later.
That wasn’t the end of Mr Dixon’s troubles.
Two years later, in 2019, Mr Dixon was rushed back to Melbourne for a second open-heart surgery to have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) put in following a ventricular tachycardia diagnosis.
In Australia, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and the second-highest for women, killing one Australian every 12 minutes and costing the economy $5 billion each year.
Our hearts are what give us life, and we only have one.
After a terrifying wake-up call, Mr Dixon now dedicates his time to sharing his story and experience with his church and community, forewarning the risks of putting your heart health and general health on the back burner.
“It is always advertised, if you get a sore neck, sore throat, dryness of the mouth, shortness of breath, sore arms and shoulders, a sore back – which it was for me – sore chest, tightness of the chest, go and get it checked out,” Mr Dixon said.
“I keep saying the timing was perfect. I had the right people at the right time in, and was in the right place.
“Don’t delay; the moment you have any symptoms, get it checked out as soon as possible.”
For information, publications, guidelines and professional support regarding cardiovascular conditions and illnesses, go to the Heart Foundation website or see your GP.