When Grant Plecas was 39 he thought he was invincible.
The father to five had always competed in triathlons and other sports, and two years earlier had reached his ultimate fitness goal when competing at the Busselton Iron Man.
In 2010 the president of Corrimal Rugby League Club was busy helping to organise his wedding, the Mother’s Day Classic Fun Run and his job at the Cancer Council.
“I was so consumed with everything else for everyone else,” Mr Plecase said, admitting he’d let his health and fitness slide.
Once the fun run was over he returned to AFL training with his local team and pushed himself through an hour-and-a-half session, something not unusual in the past.
Late that night paramedics rushed him to the emergency department with about 30 medical staff waiting upon arrival.
By telling his story Mr Plecas wants to encourage other men to keep their health in check and get active, even if it’s just playing frisbee with the kids or regularly walking the dog.
“I said to my wife ‘I don’t feel too good’. I knew something serious was going on, it felt like someone was pressing a big clamp on my chest and I couldn’t breath.
“We called the ambulance. I was only 39-years-old. The ambulance guys came in and said ‘look, we’re going to treat it like a heart attack but you’re too young, you’re too fit to have a heart attack’.
“There was about 30 people there waiting for me in the ED when I got there because of my circumstance. I was taken aback by how many were there asking me questions.”
“Wow, why me”, “I could die from this” and “this is scary” were the thoughts circling in his head.
“I’ve never been one for ill health.”
In the operating theatre
He was then wheeled into an operating theatre for an angiogram (an x-ray test using a special test to take photos of blood flow).
“With the angiogram you stay awake for the whole time; there’s all these lights and cameras.
“[The doctor] told me they were going to put a camera in my main artery and go up into my heart. I though that was okay, he knows what he’s doing.
“But when the nurse came up in the big lead suit and came up with the pads for [the defibrillator] to reboot my life if something went wrong ... all I could think of was those movies that you see … and people die.”
Mr Plecas was incredibly lucky. Doctors were able to remove the culprit, a blood clot probably formed from cholesterol, without scarring or the need for a stent.
He was told the clot likely formed from pushing himself through training after months of inactivity.
Are men less likely to check their health?
“That’s how I always was. I never visited the doctor very much because of that reason, ‘oh, I’ll get through it … i’ll just battle through this’.
“There’s a reason why doctors are there, there’s a reason why you need to talk about [your health] and go and see the doctor. Because when you’re there they might check on the flu but there’s a heap of other things that might be going on in your body that they need to keep an eye on.
“You might not talk about it with the boys down the pub … or when you’re out to dinner with friends, you don’t talk about that stuff. But if you keep regular with your doctor that conversation [about your health] comes up and makes you conscious of it.”
A change of perspective
“That was the incident that changed my life and opinion of life. I still commit to do a lot for everyone and the community, but a lot of times it forces me to take a step back and just reflect and … focus a bit more on me for me and my family.
“I’m on medication which reminds me every day of what happened. But reminds me every day how important my family is and how important my life is, and to be there for them.”
“When I do have a slack period because of work [my wife] is one of the first people on my back to say we need to … do some regular exercising. And that’s as simple as hanging out with the kids down the beach playing frisbee or walking the dogs. That’s what the doctor say, just consistently [get active].
I think the world is getting better at men realising they’re not invincible.
“Men think they’ve got to be the leader and the big strong one for their house or their family or even their work. It’s good to think that but you can’t be that if you’re not healthy.
“You might not talk about it with the boys down the pub … or when you’re out to dinner with friends, you don’t talk about that stuff. But if you keep regular with your doctor that conversation [about your health] comes up and makes you conscious of it so you do talk about it.”
Advice for other blokes
“Men think they’ve got to be the leader and the big strong one for their house or their family or even their work. It’s good to think that but you can’t be that if you’re not healthy. If you don’t look after yourself, sometime or somehow it’s going to impact your life and you’re not going to be what you want to be.
“Like a car, keep yourself serviced, keep yourself checked in for your family and your friends.
“We’re happy to hang out with our mates and talk about sport or talk about other things. But what we should be talking about is our mate who’s crook and why he’s crook and make sure we look after each other.
“I think the world is getting better at men realising they’re not invincible.”