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Bouncing back from a heart attack: Mark ‘The Flying Dutchman’ van Cuylenburg’s story

Back in 2012, Gold 90.5FM radio personality Mark “The Flying Dutchman” van Cuylenburg suffered a heart attack, which required hospitalisation and immediate surgery to insert a coronary stent in his arteries. EX caught up with Mark to discuss his subsequent lifestyle changes and how he’s embracing his second chance at life

Had you had any health scares before suffering the heart attack?
No, I thought I was invincible. It just goes to show how unpredictable life can be.

Describe your lifestyle pre-heart attack.
I worked hard to maintain a comfortable lifestyle but spent most of my spare time at home eating or watching the television. I felt that I was in control of my life but, ironically, it controlled me.

What exercise, if any, did you do?
None, I was never a fan of exercise. I never felt like I needed it, but now I know I was wrong.

What was your diet like?
I didn’t have restrictions. I ate whatever I wanted, in any amount and at any time I wanted to.

What can you remember of the heart attack or was it all a blur?
It was frightening. I was at home, relaxing. The pain was tremendous. It ran from my chest, up my neck and into my jaw. It was a pain I had never felt before and it felt as though my bones were breaking. Sorry for the cliché, but I saw my life flash before my eyes, as well as the fate of my loved ones.

How close did you come to dying?
I was told that there was a 95 per cent blockage of air and that it was way too close. I remember getting to the hospital really quickly and trying my best to stay lucid. Till this day, I try not to think about it – it was too terrifying and sudden.

How long did you have to take off work while you recuperated?
Five weeks. That was really tough because I love what I do.

Have you adopted an exercise regime since the heart attack?
Yes, of course. I exercise at least three times a week now and more if time permits. Each time I exercise, I spend 90 minutes walking and lifting light weights. Having the chance to live again, I just want to live my life to the fullest.

How difficult was it to embrace an exercise regime?
It was not difficult. After suffering a heart attack, you realise that you have to do it. The fear of getting another attack motivates me to exercise. I feel much healthier now.

Have your priorities changed since the heart attack?
It changed me for the better. I’m more cautious and focused about what I can and cannot do. Diet-wise, I’ve been eating healthier food and I take my medication and supplements religiously. Of course, I’m more focused on my family and my loved ones, and much less on work. I’ve also taken a more proactive stance, especially in regards to planning for the future.

How often do you have to have medical check-ups?
Once a month, and I also meet up with my insurance agent every once in a while to make sure that my health policies are relevant. Being financially protected allows me to focus my time on recovery without the burden of paying off medical bills which can be quite substantial.

Have you set yourself any goals now that you’ve been given this second chance?
I simply live my life to the fullest. Life’s just too short to give anything less! 

 

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