"I never felt alone": Linda's story
Having a heart attack was a huge shock to Linda Bartle, but she’s feeling positive now. Sarah Brealey spoke to her and some of those who helped her along the way.
Linda Bartle was on her way to work when she started to feel chest pains as she ran up the steps at Leeds station to catch her train.
“I knew the signs of a heart attack, but thought it couldn’t be happening to me,” she says. Instead, she assumed the pain was caused by the exertion. She caught the train and rested for the 20-minute journey, but the pain got worse and spread down her arm, too.
Linda, 64, who lives in Stockton-on-Tees, is a senior caseworker for Advance, the trade union for Santander employees. She was on her way to a meeting in Bradford that morning last December.
When she arrived, Sharon Adamson, the manager she was meeting, immediately spotted something was wrong, and she and the first aiders called an ambulance. “I feel like they saved my life,” says Linda. “They don’t think anything of it, but they went the extra mile to help me.”
A helping hand
Friends, family and colleagues have all been there for Linda. She was deeply touched when Emma Porter, Employee Relations Manager at Geoban UK (part of the Santander Group), visited her in hospital. “She brought me a card and flowers and everything I needed – a nightie, toothbrush, soap and comb, things that helped me to feel normal,” she says. “She’d thought of everything. That’s what gets you through something like this: other people around you.”
What gets you through something like this is the people around you
Following her recovery, Linda had a gradual return to work, working part-time at first, travelling less and taking on less-complex cases until she was fully back on her feet. She says: “My colleagues at Advance were a big help. They sent me flowers and everyone phoned and sent cards, and they were really good about supporting me when I returned to work.”
Linda’s also had lots of support from friends and family, including her daughter Angela and her brothers, sister and sister-in-law. As Linda puts it: “You need to surround yourself with family and friends. They support you and you do the same if anything happens to them.”
She says she has learned from her experience, too. “You realise how many people care about you, and how many good people are out there – like Tazim, another patient who was in the coronary care unit with me. She helped me when I was in hospital, her family came to see me and her husband even drove me home from hospital. And I’ve learned that every minute of my life is special. Life is so short; you have to live it while you can.”
You realise how many people care about you, and how many good people are out there
Linda says that she now feels “great” and wants to get on with her life. “I don’t want my heart attack to get me down or change me. I don’t believe in asking ‘Why me?’ As my husband Raymond used to say: ‘Why not me?’”
Linda knows she’ll have to take medications for the rest of her life. “I’m not that happy about it, but I do take them and I know they are helping me,” she says. She believes that “helping others keeps you going”, whether it’s in her current job, where she helps people with employment issues, or in the many kinds of voluntary work she’s done in the past.
Now, she hopes to inspire people and help them realise that a heart attack doesn’t have to be the end of their life. “You can deal with it,” she says. “You will get down for a little while; you may get angry. That’s OK; you come out the other end. Things do get better.” She adds: “When I was in hospital, I saw an advert for the film 'It’s a Wonderful Life'. Despite everything that had happened to me that week, I believed it then, and I believe it now.”
Signs of a heart attack
The symptoms of a heart attack can include pain or discomfort in the chest that doesn’t go away. The pain may spread to the left or right arm, or to the neck and jaw. You may feel sick or short of breath.
If you think that you or someone you are with is having a heart attack, call 999 immediately. Sit down (or sit the person down) and keep calm.
If the person is not allergic to aspirin, give them an adult aspirin tablet (300mg) to chew if there is one easily available. If you don’t have an aspirin to hand, or if you don’t know if the person is allergic to them, just get them to rest until the ambulance arrives.
Support from the BHF
Linda has had a lot of support from the BHF, including Heart Matters and our booklets. “Heart Matters is so good,” she says. “I like to read all the positive stories of real people. I also read every one of the booklets; they are really good. They helped me to understand what happened to me and what I can do to prevent it from happening again.”