Director Ian Munro’s warning to men after going off his cholesterol medication nearly killed him
Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions: exercising more, losing weight and staying healthy are always popular.
But children’s TV producer Ian Munro has a dire warning for men with a “gung-ho” attitude about getting fit and going off medication they think they no longer need.
The 61-year-old nearly died when he ditched his cholesterol drugs preferring to “manage his condition” with diet and exercise.
He said he felt good for a while, but two years later his heart started to beat erratically.
He was too busy to do anything about it and ignored the warning signs.
“It all started with me being seriously stupid, I thought I could manage my cholesterol through dietary changes,” he said.
“I was an idiot. I just kept pushing through it. I soldiered on and did not go to see the doctor. In fact I kept avoiding the doctor until it got so bad I could not breathe.”
The decision was the beginning of a downward spiral of major medical events that would leave Mr Munro in a coma, on the brink of life and death.
“It was tough and I now know it got to a point where the doctors had done pretty much everything they could think of and they became quite pessimistic about me surviving,” he said.
“Which was really tough on the family as they thought they were saying goodbye to me hooked up to all these machines in ICU.”
Based in Lismore, in northern New South Wales, Mr Munro was flown to Queensland’s Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane for emergency treatment.
He spent three weeks on an ECMO (extracorporeal life support) machine.
The ECMO took over the function of his failing heart, but he later needed a “high-risk Hail Mary” procedure due to a clot.
His family was told no less than 12 times to prepare to say goodbye.
‘The biggest miracle I’ll ever see’
But somehow Mr Munro survived, enduring 200 shocks to his failing heart and a severe blood infection.
Cardiologist Dr Haris Haqqani said he defied all the odds.
“We were scraping the barrel of every therapy that we had. He would just keep going into cardiac arrest and having to be shocked out.
“It was surreal, like ‘what are we going to do next?’
“Because there is nothing in textbooks or in papers that prepares you for that situation.
“To see him the way he is now, is the biggest miracle I’ll ever see inside the hospital and I think nothing else will ever come close.”
“Not just because he’s alive, but because he’s alive with really no complications.”
Intensive care specialist Dr Kiran Shekar said to watch Mr Munro walk out of hospital was not just surprising but a satisfying experience.
“We will always think of him, because it is not common for someone so unwell to survive, so we are going to remember him for a while,” he said smiling.
Over 100 nurses and doctors cared for Mr Munro while he was desperately ill.
He was dubbed “the million-dollar man” because that was what his treatment would have cost his family, if he had not been a public patient.
‘Something wonderful happened’
A producer and director on shows like ABC’s Playschool, Bananas in Pyjamas, Hi-5 and Film Australia’s Johnson & Friends, Mr Munro said he wanted to share his story to warn other men about the dangers of taking their health into their own hands — particularly when personal health goals are on many New Year’s resolution lists.
“You know your heart is your best friend and here I was hurting my best friend in a way it could not recover from,” he said.
“You really think, ‘I will be right, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink much, I am pretty healthy’, you do not think about your heart and it does not give you messages saying, ‘hey what about me?’.
“I just ignored it until it was very nearly too late.
“I am really grateful for the care I got, because they did not give up and because something wonderful happened and I am still here.”
Wife Caroline Munro was angry with her husband when he ditched his drugs.
“He was stupid for not taking the medication. I disagreed with him, I thought it was a bit risky,” she said.
“Obviously there was no follow-up with the doctor and I think this is the big message, taking the tablets were not that much of a big deal at the end of the day.”
Mr Munro agreed it was a “gung-ho” decision and a mistake.
“Because now I am on lots of serious medications and I nearly died,” he said.
Mr Munro said his heart was still delicate and unpredictable and he now had a defibrillator implant in case his heart stopped working.
He has also been told he can no longer work in a career he loved.
So when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, Mr Munro isn’t making any.
Dr Haqqani has urged other men to think twice about setting new health goals for 2020 without proper medical advice.
“I reckon the best New Year’s resolution is to not have a New Year’s resolution myself,” he said.
“What we find causes the most problems is when people suddenly make a change, which is why goals can be tricky.
“It is too important to make a sudden rash decision, whether it is to stop a tablet or to go on some health kick or, or some crazy fad diet that’s not going to last.
“You know you can’t go from being a couch potato to running marathons the next day. It’s a little bit at a time. The key is to do something in moderation, every day.
“And the key is to stick with it.”
This content was originally published here.