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'My fitness instructor helped to save my life during weight class'

A middle-aged woman who suddenly took ill at a weight-loss and fitness class has told how her instructor saved her life by preventing her having a heart attack.

The drama happened in a Curves class in Carlow when 48-year-old Josie Whelan suffered chest pains while exercising.

Tests later showed the mum-of-four had a blockage in her heart that could have led to heart failure if it had remained undiagnosed.

"I was working on the chest/back machine in the class when I got a pain in my chest. At first I put it down to a muscle strain that might have happened while I was gardening," Josie told the Herald.

"But my instructor Lynda rang the doctor, and he asked that I call in on the way home," she said.


After visiting the doctor, he arranged that Josie go to St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny at once, where an ECG heart test and medical assessment later showed up the blockage.

"When Josie told me the pain was not only in her chest, but spreading into her back and her arm I was saying to myself 'this is a bit more than a muscle strain' and quietly rang the doctor without making a fuss," said instructor Lynda Bolger.

"He asked that Josie's daughter Andrea drop in with her when they were passing on their way home, and that was the start of finding out what was wrong," she said.

Josie is now waiting to see what treatment doctors will recommend to clear the blockage from her heart.

"Without Lynda I could have had a heart attack, so I want to thank her for doing what she did," said Josie.

But Lynda told the Herald there were other reasons why she felt it was so important that Josie seek medical help.

"I had an uncle who had chest pains for three days, and he's not with us anymore.

"He died of a heart attack on the third day. That was two years ago," she said.

"So that was still fresh in my mind, and Josie could have gone the same way," Lynda added.

Both women offer the same advice to anyone who gets a chest pain -- seek an opinion from a doctor.

"If Lynda had not said it to me I probably would have gone home and just thought it was muscle strain or something, and who knows what might have happened?" said Josie, who has lost more than two stone since joining Curves last October.

"Don't ignore chest pain," was Lynda's advice. "It's always better to get it checked out."

Josie also said that having lost more than two stone helps improve her chances now.

"It's frightening to think I have this blockage, but at least I know it's there and we can do something about it. Isn't that better than finding out with a heart attack?"