By: Janice Burdon
Seventy-six-year-old Clive Ebden was driving to meet his rugby friends to watch them play their final match when he felt dizzy. His breathing was deep and laboured. He was sweating profusely and his heart rate kept increasing. It got so bad that he had to stop his car, get out and walk around a bit to get rid of his symptoms. The symptoms didn’t abate so he got back in his car and headed for home. As he was driving on Highway 20 by Ste. Anne de Bellevue where he had previously driven a week earlier to attend his 75th birthday party, the symptoms came on again but this time with a vengeance. He ran a red light, saw an underpass and stopped his car behind someone already parked. Stumbling out of his car, he went and asked the driver to call 911. “ Please call my wife,” Clive asked the driver. Within half an hour, Clive, along with his wife and the ambulance technicians, were heading for the Lakeshore hospital.
The doctors kept Clive overnight and hooked him to monitors, which read his vitals. Finally, in the morning, the doctor told Clive, “You have a clean bill of health Mr. Ebden! We suspect you took a panic attack is all.” They gave him some anti-anxiety pills and sent him home. A few days later, Clive booked a trip to celebrate his 75th birthday with his daughter in Nova Scotia. While sitting in her living room one night, it happened again. An uneasy feeling came over him and suddenly he was short of breath and felt dizzy. He quickly popped an anti-anxiety pill while his daughter called the ambulance. Once again, Clive was rushed to the nearest hospital only to be told that nothing was wrong with him! No high cholesterol, no high blood pressure, no heart failure, so what was going on? He never, in his whole life, had experienced anything like this before.
Clive had been active all his life. Growing up in England, he took up running at the young age of 11. He came to Canada in December of 1966 where he became a structural aircraft engineer, working for companies like Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Boeing. Clive was well-liked and highly respected in his field of work, often taking on huge projects, which were handled and delivered successfully. An avid traveller, Clive visited many places like China, Germany, Latvia, Greece, France, Switzerland, Egypt, Israel, California, Holland, Italy and the list goes on. You would think that Clive would be the last person in the world who would have a panic attack. Society today has a stigma towards people who have these attacks and labels them as being weak, self-indulgent or undisciplined. Clive is none of the above and still has a hard time understanding why these attacks come on.
Visiting a psychiatrist one day, Clive was told that panic attacks are common and that one out of every10 Canadians suffers from these attacks. People often mistake them as heart attacks and quickly run to the nearest hospital in fear. The sense of powerlessness, feeling faint and weak, feeling like you’re losing your mind, shortness of breath and pain in the chest area, nausea, shaking, hot flashes and chills could all be symptoms of this condition. Some specialists think it’s genetic while others believe stress brings on symptoms. Clive’s psychiatrist seemed to think that planning his 75th birthday party was a stressful event for him and driving by the same location a week later might have triggered those stress-related feelings. “But it was a happy event!” said Clive, bewildered.
Clive still doesn’t know what brought on the attacks but he does know that sitting for too long seems to instigate these symptoms, so he needs to keep moving. He needs to keep his mind busy as well. His doctor in Hudson agrees that running is good for Clive as it helps distribute the chemical of the pill he takes to his brain rather quickly and is a good stress release as well. Clive has run marathons before but now at 76, tries to manage at least four to six kilometres, three to four times per week, adding in some cycling. “It’s satisfying, clears my mind and helps me focus on the present moment,” says Clive. “I think if it wasn’t for my running, I would be a lot worse.” The attacks come less frequently now and Clive remembers a comic book he used to read back in England about a boy who ran from everything. He ran from life, he ran from trouble, he also ran into trouble but for Clive, this boy’s example of running from everything is his motivation to run ‘away from anxiety’. “I’ll keep running till I can’t run any more!”
For more detailed info on panic attacks, please visit: www.ementalhealth.ca/Ottawa-Carleton/Panic-Attacks-in-Adults/index.php?m=article&ID=8899
Janice Burdon is a passionate fitness instructor/Storyteller. For more info on her courses, please visit her website at www.ultimatemotionfitness.ca
Do you have a story to share? What are you waiting for? Send it to Janice at email@example.com