With her positive outlook on life and sense of humour, Josephine Abbate is a bit of a legend in the Bayswater Head office of Belgravia Leisure. Not a day goes by when she isn’t organising a future get-together for the team, trying to bring everyone together and build a culture of friendship and tribalism in our workforce.
But we nearly lost her. Jos suffered a heart attack in 2016 which almost took her young life. She fought her way through the initial crisis, and then recalibrated her life to ensure she could fully recover and stay with us to a ripe old age.
In her own words, Jos explains how wellness has become a fundamental approach in her new life.
The photo above was taken in May 2016, two weeks before my heart attack.
On a scale of one to 10 my wellness was a four, and that’s being generous. My heart was lacking blood and oxygen caused by two blockages in the main artery to my heart. My heart attack took place in at Belgravia Head office in front of many people I work with every day. It was public and frightening.
It was 8.30am on May 11, 2016. I had made a coffee and was settling into my desk for the day. I felt “off”, something I had never felt before. I couldn’t settle myself; I went into the ladies’ room and splashed water on my face. I was cold and clammy and couldn’t regulate my breathing. When I got back to my desk, I laid flat on the floor in the middle of the office. My heart was thumping. Like someone was knocking on the wall of my heart, thump, thump thump. I felt it getting more and more rapid. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack. Within minutes an assessment by my colleagues to drive me to the nearest hospital. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack. In fact, I had to be talked out of driving myself to the hospital.
By the time I got to hospital (15-20mins later) my hearing had all but left me and I was experiencing blurred vision. I still didn’t think I was having a heart attack.
I became agitated and it wasn’t until I was hooked up to a defibrillator in emergency that I realised I was in some strife. Then came the words that will haunt me for ever, “Josephine you are having a heart attack”. At that moment I thought of all the reasons that could have got me there. Unhealthy eating habits, little to no cardio activity, smoking and the list goes on. More than anything I didn’t listen to my body. When I wasn’t sleeping well when my heart was beating hard after a coffee or a cigarette, when walking up the stairs was too hard, when my emotions were spiking. My emotions mirrored my wellness. It was dangerously out of balance and I was out of shape.
Now when I feel my heart pounding, at least I know it’s working …
My surgery took 2.5 hours and whilst I was awake for it, all I could do was promise to be better to myself, to listen to my body and to know that I deserved better. You know the same feeling after a really bad hangover “I will never drink Tequila again”. I was praying and I don’t even follow a religion. I just wanted to declare to anyone who would listen that I had heard my wake-up call and I would now fall into line.
When I got home from the hospital I was out of breath walking from my bedroom to the bathroom. The damage from my heart attack is a collapsed lung which I work around. My wellness is MY responsibility and as such I took control. Six months after the most frightening day of my life I started in a program called Coaching Zone. My workouts are not about being skinny, but about being healthy and that is exactly what I am.
Three years later and 38kg lighter, I live a cleaner life and now rate my wellbeing a healthy 9.5. I often think about the promises I made my heart on that operating table and it helps me shape my new life. I owed it to the cardiologist who saved my life, my family and friends, and mostly I owed it to myself.
I do Coaching Zone up to seven times a week which is not bad for someone who has a collapsed lung. The privilege of my perks at BHLG are never lost on me. They are quite literally lifesaving. I used to hate seeing the above photo of me in the tea room, but now it reminds me every day that I survived. Now when I feel my heart pounding, at least I know it’s working, weakened but never broken.
The photo below is of me a month ago.
I live my life by the following mantra: Love more, accept more, say yes and thank you, be humble, be grateful, show empathy, don’t be embarrassed, expect less, laugh loud and dream louder.
In 2021 I will complete El Camino De Santiago- an 800km pilgrimage between France and Spain.
No need to wish me luck, I GOT THIS.