Lee Pearman was just 33 when he had a stent fitted. He explains why it was a wake-up call and how it made him realise what’s important in life.
A barrister specialising in child protection, Lee was on his way to court in 2010 when he felt a sharp pain in his chest. He went to his GP, who referred him for tests. After an exercise stress test and an angiogram, he was told he needed an angioplasty and stent to treat a blocked artery. “You think, it can’t be me,” says Lee. “But when I look back, I was overweight and having other symptoms, like hot sweats.”
Before the procedure, Lee read up as much as possible, “Informing myself helped me mentally prepare,” He advises others to not be afraid to discuss their treatment with their doctor. “If you’re worried or uncertain, just ask.”
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Lee’s angioplasty went smoothly and he was sent home the same day. After 10 days, he was back at work, on a particularly stressful case. The evening the case finished, he felt chest pain again and went to A&E. Scans and blood tests showed he was fine, but it was a wake-up call. “There’s nothing like lying on a hospital bed to focus your mind,” says Lee. “I had to make changes to make sure this didn’t happen again.”
Informing myself helped me mentally prepare. If you’re worried or uncertain, just ask
The first thing Lee did was to take a sabbatical. He went to Jamaica to volunteer for a human rights organisation for six months. The regular 9am-5pm schedule gave him time to focus on his health. Before his angioplasty, Lee would work six to seven days a week, some days until 3am, getting up again at 6am. But when he came back from Jamaica, he decided he would no longer work long nights and would take more holidays. “I realised how lack of sleep can affect the heart,” says Lee. “I’ve actually become better at work now. With extra sleep comes more focus.”
Time to change
With more free time, Lee was able to exercise more. He used an audio training programme to help him gradually build up his fitness and now, 10 years after his angioplasty, he’s running and doing weight training sessions twice a week. “You think you don’t have time, but you have to make time,” says Lee.
Lee used to eat out a lot, but now he and his partner Ana make most of their own meals. They use recipes from Heart Matters and adapt recipes from other sources to make them healthier. “You think, ‘Does it really need that much butter, salt or sugar?’” says Lee.
He takes healthy packed lunches to work and keeps tins of tuna and vegetables stocked in the cupboard. “Otherwise, if you’re hungry and it’s last-minute, it’s easy to eat the wrong stuff,” explains Lee.
It sounds peculiar but I’m grateful for what happened. It made me think about what’s important in life
During Lee’s recovery, he created a “bucket list” of things he wanted to achieve in life. One of them was “write a novel”: so he began writing a legal thriller while on sabbatical in Jamaica. After writing during holidays over the last decade, he completed his book and published it under a pen name this summer.
“I wouldn’t want to give up being a barrister, it is such an important part of who I am, but I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to do other things,” says Lee. “It sounds peculiar but I’m grateful for what happened. It made me think about what’s important in life.”
Article credit: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/my-story/lee-pearman-stent