The heart is one of the most important organs in the body, yet for most people, heart health is often not a concern. We do not think of getting regular checks to monitor how our heart is doing, and often disregard high cholesterol readings or wave off symptoms that belie heart health risks.

Little do we know, however, that these checks provide us warning signs that can help save our lives.

For 49-year old insurance agent, Han Kam Fook, the rude awakening came one day when he experienced chest pains after having lunch. Initially, he brushed it off as heart burn or indigestion, but when the discomfort returned the next day, he sought treatment at a nearby clinic.

This led to several tests and the discovery of an anomaly in his electrocardiogram (ECG) reading, which led to a referral for further observation. It was at a local government hospital that a heart ultrasound revealed the origin of the pain: Han had a hole in his heart, which has been present since birth.

Although he was initially in disbelief, a second opinion from a specialist at the National Heart Institute (better known by its Malay acronym IJN) confirmed the congenital defect, which Han has carried for nearly 50 years.

Despite the discovery, Han confessed that he considered continuing his life as normal, without getting treatment.

“Although I was worried, I did ask the doctor if it was fine for me to continue living the way I did – without seeking proper treatment. After all, I have been living with this hole in my heart for nearly five decades.

“However, the doctor told me that if I wanted to increase my chances of survival, I would have to act. If I did not, my heart condition would continue to worsen until I experienced total heart failure,” he said.

Seeking Treatment And Support

Urged on by his family, Han decided to pursue proper treatment, despite the high financial costs of the surgery. Finding out more about his ailment inspired him to get treated, which his friends and family supported wholeheartedly.

A friend in church also assisted him in getting assistance from the IJN Foundation, the charity arm of IJN, which sponsored much of his surgery fees.

Today, Han approaches life with a different perspective towards health, taking charge of it rather than leaving it to chance. Emboldened with the second chance bestowed upon him, Han hopes to aid others and educate them about the seriousness of heart health, spurring them to act and not wait until it is too late.

“Our heart is like a diamond, a precious gift that gives us life, which is why we must be mindful of how we treat it. This hole in my heart can happen to anyone who is not sure of their heart health, so it is important to get checked as soon as you can.

“Additionally, other factors like high cholesterol can also affect our heart, so it is also equally important to take care of one’s lifestyle and diet, to give our heart the best,” he concluded.

This article is courtesy of Nestlé Omega Plus, in partnership with the IJN Foundation, as one story in a series told by real patients enduring and recovering from heart disease and poor heart health.