When retired doctor David Langley suffered a severe heart attack he received emergency care in a role reversal he never expected. A poster boy for good health, the heart attack came out of the blue. Kāpiti News reporter Rosalie Willis caught up with the man who credits the fast and efficient response from emergency services for saving his life.
Lying in a bed at Wellington Hospital, hooked up to an electrocardiogram, it had been an eventful few hours for retired doctor David Langley.
Four hours previously Langley, 72, from Paraparaumu Beach had been pottering around in his man cave making music at his piano and playing around on his computer when he felt pain in his chest.
A regular exerciser and all-round healthy person, little did David know he was about to be flown to Wellington to have lifesaving surgery, a surgery he had witnessed many times before during his medical career.
Practising as a family doctor in Canada for the majority of his career, David and his wife Kerry moved back to New Zealand to retire 10 years ago.
"I'm a healthy guy. I'm a retired family doctor so I know about prevention of heart disease."
It was the middle of summer, on January 16, when David started having chest pains while working in his man cave.
"I put up with it for a few minutes, probably close to half an hour but it was getting worse.
"I knew it was something not good so I came inside and lay down to see if it would go away."
Kerry called their family doctor at Team Medical who quickly transferred them to emergency services.
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"They basically transferred us to the 111 folks and said you might need a trip to Wellington, dispatching the paramedics immediately."
Within seven minutes of making the call a paramedic was at their door step.
"It was all happening very, very rapidly.
"The paramedic came in and within a few minutes had done an electrocardiogram. Straight away the diagnosis was obvious - I was having a heart attack.
"She quickly went into gear and started treating me right away giving me various interventions such as aspirin to help thin the blood and stop further damage, and pain relief.
"She was extremely efficient and she was obviously very knowledgeable under fire.
"Just doing what she had to do, multi-tasking, phoning for an ambulance at the same time as treating me and then phoning for a helicopter when she found out the wait for the ambulance would be too long."
Over the next 10 minutes David and Kerry's street filled with emergency services including the fire brigade and Life Flight's Westpac Rescue Helicopter landing at Kāpiti Boating Club down the road.
"Pretty much right away she said an ambulance wasn't going to get here quick enough as it was stuck in Porirua so she was calling for the helicopter," Kerry said.
"They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but in this case it was a good thing," David said.
"As a doctor I was aware of what was happening and I knew what the treatment should be.
"The paramedic was doing it exactly the way I understood it should be done.
"This allowed me to go 'okay they know what they're doing, they're doing it right,' and there wasn't any big fear factor.
"Basically, I was able to sit back, relax, and watch it happen. I found it very reassuring and not a terrible experience."
For Kerry it was not quite so relaxing.
"It was scary watching this happen to David, although everyone treating him was so good I felt quite confident with them too.
"I think I never really twigged how serious it was until a lot later."
David was driven down to the boating club and transferred to Life Flight's Wellington Rescue Helicopter.
"It was an interesting ride flying over Kāpiti Island. I had never seen it from that perspective before.
"I don't know how long it was but it felt like about 10 minutes and bang we were on the hospital roof."
Arriving long before Kerry, who travelled by road, David was whisked straight to the intervention suite as the paramedics had phoned ahead to the cardiology department letting them know he was coming.
"They even had a copy of the ECG before I got there.
"It was very, very rapid, suddenly I was in the intervention suite and they were fixing me.
"The communication between everyone involved was brilliant. It was just so smooth and well communicated.
"There were at least a dozen people involved getting me to the hospital, from paramedics to the firemen and helicopter crews.
"There were several points where transfers were made and the information was passed along quickly and smoothly.
"Suddenly I was in the hands of another team that also functioned with great competence and gave good instructions and so forth.
"Everything was simple and smooth. Everyone we went through was competent."
When David reached Wellington Hospital the cardiology staff inserted a stent to unblock the artery.
Awake during the procedure, David knew what was happening at each step along the way.
"It's different being on the other side of it.
"It was probably four hours from starting to have symptoms to being fixed.
"From zero to having the procedure, it was all very quick."
David praised everyone who helped save his life, especially Life Flight.
"I just think it's so important for Kāpiti residents to be aware of it and donate.
"It really made us feel confident about living out here where there is no hospital, that you can get high-quality medical treatment quickly.
"The whole thing happened in such a short space of time."
Within two weeks of this tumultuous four hours, David was back to his normal activities.
"I'm doing virtually every activity I was doing, back to exercise and was back playing the trumpet after two weeks."
Doing the 'usual grandparenting activities' such as babysitting and gardening, David also spends his time doing photography and is a skilled jazz musician.
Playing in a number of local groups David plays for Brasso, the Kāpiti Concert Orchestra and Kāpiti Brass, along with a number of other gigs.
"I was back playing within a couple of weeks. The only thing I'm not doing is I've cancelled the Tongariro Crossing.
"I can't physically exert myself too much so I'm going to give that one a pass."
David had no risk factors for a heart attack.
"It could happen to anyone. You just don't know.
"I'm the poster boy for how not to have a heart attack, but I had one anyway. I say that I'm a victim of the random chaotic nature of the universe."
Life Flight provides the only Westpac Rescue Helicopter in the Wellington region and is much needed flying to towns like Paraparaumu when time is critical for patients who need urgent hospital care.
To support this lifesaving cause visit www.lifeflight.org.nz/donate-now or call 04 920 2242.