Doc to relive his mountain ordeal

By tessa.johnstone@age.co.nz, Tessa Johnstone


A Carterton doctor hit by a heart attack while tramping on Mt Holdsworth is returning this weekend to the track on which he collapsed six months ago.

Dr Ian McArthur was tramping with his wife Annie Lincoln on east Holdsworth on April 22, in preparation for a three-month trek around Peru and Bolivia to start the following week.

He began to feel what he thought was indigestion on the way up to the summit, a 1475m hike, but it disappeared - only to return on the way back down, just before he collapsed.

"I had this sensation my life was over, all of the life drained out of me and with a sense of impending doom I said to Annie 'I'm going to die now'."

Dr McArthur said he was unconscious for about a minute, while his wife - also a doctor - performed CPR on him.

He has a vivid recollection of a party atmosphere while unconscious: a vision of people dancing and juggling, boxing matches, dogs chasing each other around, and he thought he'd like to stay - though his wife had soon resuscitated him.

"We had a very rational conversation after the event. When you go through something like that you don't panic. I asked what happened and she said, 'I think you had a cardiac arrest'."

Dr McArthur's wife had mobile phone reception with just enough battery life left to call emergency services. Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived about an hour later, and he was winched out and flown to Wellington Hospital - he said being winched out was probably the scariest part of the experience.

Although he has been a keen tramper for 30 years, and was often seen cycling from his Norfolk Rd home to his Carterton workplace, Dr McArthur reckons, on top of a genetic predisposition, it was his diet that led to the clogged arteries which caused the attack.

He opted to have stents placed in his arteries rather than have a triple bypass, and has been slowly recovering since.

"It's a huge shock to go through something like that. It's a huge adjustment physically and mentally. It takes a lot of time and a lot of love, and a lot of thought and reflection." Dr McArthur said it has caused him to re-think some of his life's priorities, including the importance of spending time with family.

As he was being interviewed by the Wairarapa Times-Age, his son and daughter were readying themselves to do the climb to Mt Holdsworth summit with him.

"Going back is like getting on a horse after falling off, confronting a demon, something I have to do to rehabilitate."

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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