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20 years of heart problems: Bruce's story

Bruce Cripps

Bruce Cripps' heart problems began when he was 57. He tells Lucy Trevallion how positivity and his hobbies have helped him stay strong over the last 20 years.

“When I was told that I’d had a heart attack, I fainted for the first time in my life,” says Bruce Cripps, 76. He had been diagnosed with unstable angina in 1997, aged 57. In May 1998, he was rushed to hospital and told he’d had a heart attack. After a fortnight there, Bruce had quadruple bypass surgery at King’s College Hospital.

“I soon recovered from the shock,” he says. “I had no option but to go forward and listen to the advice of the medical experts. On the first day after my surgery I remember feeling so grateful to be alive.”

Emotional and physical challenges

Bruce, from West Sussex, found that the period after his heart surgery was more emotionally difficult than expected. “After you go through a heart op you feel different within yourself,” he says. “Perhaps you give way to feelings more easily or are more emotional, but you have to keep going.”

You feel delicate after surgery, and are unsure how much you can do safely

Bruce’s wife, three sons and daughter made many journeys to see him in hospital. He says they have been endlessly supportive. “When I felt negative and wanted to be positive again, I’d look around me and try to enjoy everything I possibly could about family life – the gardens, my neighbours, and all the other good things that were going on around me,” he says.

There were physical challenges, too. After surgery Bruce felt “a bit grotty” and took a few months to recover at home. He’d always done a lot of walking, even writing books about local walks, and the goal of getting out into the countryside helped motivate him during recovery.

“I felt that whatever I could do to get back on track again, I would do,” says Bruce. “You feel delicate after surgery, and are unsure how much you can do safely. I think the hardest thing to understand is that, in time, you will be able to do the things that you could before your operation.”

Bruce Cripps

Walking with friends keeps Bruce active

Keeping the mind and body active

Hobbies help Bruce feel strong and his favourite project was restoring a classic BMW motorbike. “I’ve always been interested in classic vehicles and restoring them,” he says. “It wasn’t until two years after the op that I felt strong enough to do work on them again. I always need a project of some sort, whether it’s helping with village fêtes, or rebuilding things. It keeps the mind active, so you’re not thinking about your health too much.”

I always need a project of some sort... It keeps the mind active

Bruce has travelled a lot since his heart problems, to New Zealand, Canada and the USA. He tries to eat healthily and keep active, enjoying a six or seven-mile walk every week. “We’re near the South Downs here in Sussex, and I go with a few fellas I know,” he says. “We’ve done it for years.”

Bruce says that his heart condition hasn’t stopped him living life. “I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve not been able to do that I’ve wanted to do,” he says.

Strength to Bruce is...

"Positivity. Looking forward and trying to lift yourself above the worries you have. You can’t always do it, but you can always try.”


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