When Surf Coast Shire mayor David Bell felt breathless following the 2017 Danger 1000 Ocean Swim, he put it down to his age.
After celebrating his 61st birthday in late January, he took five weeks off swimming and was shocked at his return form.
“My first swim back at the RACV resort was the long weekend in March,” Cr David Bell said.
“I swam 500 metres and I thought I had gotten surprisingly unfit in five weeks. I felt heavy in both of my arms and felt out of sorts.
“As a typical male, I decided nothing major was wrong so I just went home to lie down for a little while.”
Partner Traci knew it was rare for the councillor to come home from swimming and rest, so she drove him to hospital.
“I count myself fortunate that my partner was home at the time. Otherwise, I’d probably be dead,” he said.
“When we got to the Epworth and I felt vague, the doctor said to me ‘you’re having a heart attack, I can see it on my screen’.
“I had done the Danger 1000 in January and got very breathless, which I put down to getting old. But it was actually my heart not functioning. My heart was trying to tell me it was crook.”
The mayor – who had a stent procedure – will return to the Danger 1000 Ocean Swim on January 6, followed by his debut in the Lorne Pier to Pub on January 13.
“After the heart attack, I asked my GP how much exercise I could do,” he said.
“He told me ‘whatever you do today, double it tomorrow’.
“So the first day, I walked down my steep 80-metre driveway and back, then I had to sleep for a couple of hours.
“It’s important that if you think something’s not quite right with your health, go to the doctor and tell them everything. If they tell you to take a stress test, then do the stress test. I ignored the early symptoms but thankfully, I’ve been very fortunate.”
January 6 will be the 20th anniversary of the Danger 1000 Swim Series held at Torquay Beach.