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SUPER LEAGUE STAR BACKS HEART CHARITY AFTER HEALTH SCARE
There was widespread shock when Bradford Bulls player Adrian Purtell suffered a heart attack after his team’s defeat to Leeds in Manchester last May.
Now the 28-year-old is to become an ambassador for Yorkshire-based national charity Heart Research UK after being given the all-clear by doctors to resume his career.
He is happy to support Heart Research UK in its bid to educate people to live more active and healthier lifestyles and to help raise funds for research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.
It was May last year when fit and healthy Rugby League player Adrian Purtell found himself alone in a Yorkshire hospital wired up to a heart machine, having just been told he’d suffered a heart attack.
The Australian had given his all during the ‘Magic Weekend’ event at Manchester City’s Ethiad Stadium on a hot day against arch rivals Leeds, which his Bradford Bulls team had lost 37-22.
He had come off the pitch and had a shower and a drink but started getting a deep, hot burning sensation across his chest which he initially thought was heart burn. His condition worsened on the coach home when he was being sick and the pain on his chest was like a dead weight pushing down on him.
His team doctor and physio treated him for dehydration on the coach. They gave him a drip and some oxygen– but decided not to take any chances and stopped off at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where he was put on an electro-cardiogram. It confirmed he had had a heart attack.
“It was scary when they first told me – and I was there by myself. At that point I didn’t know anything about the situation and thought “am I going to die?” he said.
He was taken to the cardiac centre at Leeds Infirmary where the doctors carried out an angioplasty to unblock the coronary artery that had been causing the problem and affecting the heart’s left ventricle.
Adrian had a deep vein thrombosis five years earlier, although the doctors didn’t think that had been a factor in his heart attack. His cholesterol levels – which can also have an effect - were also fine so it was something of a mystery why a previously healthy athlete had suffered a heart attack.
He was referred to a heart specialist in London and was told the heart attack had come about probably just because a series of things on that May day were not in his favour – particularly the heat.
Adrian’s mother came over from Australia to look after him, and he gradually began to step up his activity – walking round the block just a week after leaving the hospital, and within six weeks, running on a treadmill.
The next big question was whether he would ever again be able to play the sport he loved, but Adrian didn’t give in. “I had accepted that I might not play again. The first doctors I saw weren’t able to give me the answers I needed. If I had gone home and asked ‘could I have played?’ I would have been more depressed about not pushing myself to get back, so I had to keep trying.”
Adrian went through a series of MRI scans over the following months and was told that despite some slight scarring, the heart was functioning normally. He successfully came through a test which put his heart under stress conditions and was given the all clear last November.
Adrian is delighted that he can play again but it probably won’t sink in until he actually pulls on a Bulls shirt for the first time since his heart attack. He’s in full training ready to compete again in the Super League and back with his Bulls team-mates and the coaching staff. “There are even times now in training where I am thinking ‘should I be doing this’,” he said.
The heart attack was not linked to Adrian’s lifestyle. As an athlete, he was already looking after his body, so did not have to make any dramatic changes to his regime.
He admits he has cut out snacking – and eats oily fish at least once a week. “I have been playing this sport for 10 years now so I knew the importance of a healthy diet,” he said. “I have also not been drinking as much. I just made a decision to give my body the best chance possible to heal from all of this.”
Adrian has nothing but praise for all those who have helped him to get back on the pitch. “I am just grateful for what the doctors did for me in getting me through the night,” he said. “I’m so pleased that I’ve got the opportunity to play again.”
He has strong messages for those who have been through a similar experience. “Just stay positive, from the start. I was upset about the prospect of not playing again, but I did come to the view that if that happened it wouldn’t be the end of the world as I was still alive. I was also just trying to be proactive and get back to some form of exercise as soon as possible.”
Now Adrian is happy to support Heart Research UK in its bid to educate people to live more active and healthier lifestyles and to help raise funds for research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.
“I can testify to the excellent treatment I received, and it would be good to ensure that a charity like Heart Research UK has the necessary support so it can continue to fund research that helps to save peoples’ lives.
“What happened to me really shook me up, so I’d like to think that others in a similar situation will get the excellent care and same positive outcome as I did.”
Barbara Harpham, national director of Heart Research UK said: “Having a heart attack doesn’t have to be the end of the world as you know it - it can be the thing that makes you live a healthier lifestyle and get back on your feet to be as good as you were before or better.
“Adrian is a wonderful role model for us all. Even though he is a top sportsman, he has made changes to his lifestyle to keep his heart healthy and that is a lesson for us all. We are delighted that he is a Heart Research UK ambassador for healthy lifestyles and I am sure he will be an inspiration.”