Having a heart attack saved Yindy Sandhu’s life because it prompted him to ditch his lethal smoking habit and transform his lifestyle.
Ahead of National No Smoking Day, on 9 March, the dad-of-three is urging others to consider quitting what still tragically kills one in every two smokers.
The 55-year-old, from Old Town, didn’t even realise his life was hanging in the balance until he dialled 111 and was whisked to hospital where he underwent open heart surgery.
Yindy, who runs Key Security Systems, said: “I thought I had indigestion but what unfolded has totally changed everything. I’ve ditched the fags, cut right back on booze, sorted out my diet and have a much better work life balance now.”
Ever since his twenties, Yindy smoked at least 20-a-day and paid little attention to what he ate or how much alcohol he drank. He worked long hours in an active job but made time to play golf and walk the dogs, so considered himself reasonably fit and healthy until last November.
“It’s stressful building up a business and I knew I was no angel health-wise, but I wasn’t overweight and ran up and down ladders all day. In hindsight though, I was drinking excessively, smoking like a chimney and generally heading for big trouble,” he said.
“That came when I was out walking the dogs on Saturday afternoon – my chest felt very heavy and I became breathless. I thought I was just run down with work but, after a restless night, I played a round of golf the next morning, and carried on smoking.”
That Sunday afternoon he went to bed feeling unwell and his concerned wife Sarah called NHS 111 for some advice.
“I thought I just needed something like Gaviscon to relieve the tightness, but after describing the symptoms to the call handler a paramedic was sent out,” he said.
“The paramedic checked me over and, as my oxygen levels were very low, they decided to take me to hospital. Even then I still thought I’d be back at work the next day.”
Further investigation revealed one of his arteries was three quarters blocked, causing his breathlessness.
“The doctors sat round my bed and explained how I would need an operation and to take tablets for the rest of my life. I asked if I had a heart attack without even realising it and they said technically yes. They also said I would need to stop smoking and cut down on drinking,” he said.
“I know some people ignore the advice. I saw them in their gowns going outside for a cigarette. But I didn’t want to go down that route – when they opened me up I think a switch was flipped. I had been given a second chance and was going to make the most of it.”
With an 18-inch scar down his chest as a permanent reminder of his near brush with death, Yindy has overhauled his entire lifestyle.
He said: “I’m like a new man – my wife didn’t recognise me at first, but she is loving it now. When we go shopping, I’m looking at all the food labels to check it’s not full of fat, sugar or salt. I used to eat all the wrong things before. I don’t miss the smoking – that chapter of my life is closed – and I only have a drink or two now, compared to the six or seven pints a night previously.”
Yindy has also reduced his working hours so he can spend more time with his family and enjoy a more leisurely way of life.
“Everything used to revolve around work and making money, but now I’ve taken a step back from all that. I’m working three days a week and doing things that I missed out on before, like taking my wife out for lunch and watching our children grow up – two are already at university,” he said.
As part of his recovery, Yindy is also taking part in the cardio rehab sessions at the Croft Sports Centre.
“I used to play squash there very regularly and was pretty fit. I had definitely taken my eye off the ball and was burning the candle at both ends. I feel blessed to have had this experience because it has given me a whole new perspective,” he said.
“I know of people who didn’t get this opportunity and have paid the price for all those bad habits. That’s why I feel like I’ve won the lottery and want to say thank you, especially to the call handler and paramedic.”
Although Yindy doesn’t regard himself much of an example, he hopes his experience will encourage others to consider their choices a little more carefully.
“I can’t exactly preach, having had all those vices. But looking back, I do wish I paid more attention to what I was doing – I’ve wasted so much money on smoking and drinking too much,” he said.
“I was spending three grand a year on cigarettes alone, which could have paid for a nice car or something. I needed this kick to sort myself out – it has not only saved my life, but made it so much better. If you thinking this could happen to you, then try not to learn the hard way because not everyone is so lucky.”
The Swindon Stop Smoking Service, which provides expert 1-1 advice and practical guidance as well as nicotine replacement options, is proven to significantly increase your chances of success.
Cherry Jones, Director of Public Health at Swindon Borough Council, said: “Congratulations to Yindy on having successfully quit smoking after so many years. His story is really inspiring and shows that it really is never too late to turn over a completely new leaf with your lifestyle.
“It’s great to hear how much happier and more relaxed he is, having given up the habit. I hope his experience will encourage others to take a closer look at their health and make positive changes, which perhaps have been put off for years. Yindy’s example shows that it can make a massive, indeed life-changing, difference and don’t forget to call on the wide range of free support to help you on your journey to being smokefree too.”
If you think now is the time to stop, call 0800 3892229 or 01793 465513, text 07881 281797 or email email@example.com
Pharmacies or GPs also offer support to stop smoking.
Smoking in Swindon: the facts
- Smoking remains the biggest avoidable cause of premature deaths in the UK and is estimated to claim 285 lives a year in Swindon.
- One of the Council’s 30 Pledges is to “Reduce smoking prevalence to less than the England average.” We’re on track to achieve this goal, with latest figures indicating that 17.8% adults in Swindon smoke, against a national average of 18.0%. In 2012 21.5% of adults in Swindon smoked, compared to 27.4% back in 2003-05, so significant progress is being made.
- Nationally on average more men smoke than women, with 20.5% of men being smokers compared to 15.6% of women. In 2013, 21% of male deaths and 13% of female deaths were estimated to be attributable to smoking.
- Treating disease caused by smoking costs the NHS between £3 billion and £6 billion each year – up to more than 5% of its total annual budget.