As a doctor and cardiologist, I see heart attacks and death on a daily basis and after a while one gets used to it and it feels like nothing can shock anymore. However, I was completely shocked yesterday when I heard about Shane Warne’s death from a suspected heart attack. Firstly he was only 52. Secondly he was a world class athlete only a few years ago. Thirdly from the news it seems that he was completely fine in the days beforehand and had lots of plans and aspirations and then out of the blue we hear that his amazing life had just come to such a brutal and sudden end without even an inkling of a warning.
This is very difficult to process. You see we all think of ourselves as strong and impregnable when we are well. When news like this comes along, we suddenly start feeling vulnerable and our minds desperately want to identify a reason that caused this event which we can then either modify or exclude in ourselves. Once we can do so we can then go back to feeling strong and impregnable again.
Many people will look at Shane’s lifestyle and blame this for his death. Others may question whether it was the vaccine. Others may suggest it was foul play. The truth is we may never know. However, one thing I know for sure and that is that this kind of thing can happen to anyone at any time and if there is anything we can learn from this event, it is that we really have no control over our quantity of life. There are people I know who do everything right, take every kind of precaution that they can and yet still have fatal heart attacks. There are also those who undergo every kind of pre-emptive testing on their hearts to ensure that they will not have heart attacks but still die of road traffic accidents or infections or cancer. The truth is that there are a million and one ways to die and we really have no control over our future and perhaps we have to learn to accept this simple but very hard to digest truth.
Realisation of this truth can lead people to develop 2 opposing mindsets. The first is that it may enslave people. People may find that this leads to a feeling of helplessness and breeds anxiety and depression.
The second mindset and the one which I would encourage everyone to adopt is that we can use this realization to liberate ourselves. When we realise that we have no control over our quantity of life then allows us to focus on that aspect of life that we do have lots of control over and arguably is even more important than length of life and that is our quality of life.
The truth is that we are brainwashed into thinking that we should sacrifice our quality of life today to build something for the future and many of us jump onto a hamster wheel where everything is about working hard and earning more money and saving and accumulating and that as long as we do this happiness is just round the corner.
As we continue to make sacrifices, we feel that to compensate we have to accumulate material possessions, send our kids to the best schools to compensate for that education and those values that they could have gained simply from us being more present in their lives.
Unfortunately by the time we come to the realisation that we want to jump off the hamster wheel, we are so deeply entrenched in it and there is really nothing else left out there. By that time, we have aged, our children have flown the nest and we don’t even have the strength and energy to do all those things that we had envisaged when we were younger and stronger.
I therefore try to encourage all those patients who come to me to find out how to live longer, to stop and think – is it length of life you want or is it quality of life you want. Is life just meant to be about the absence of death or is life meant to be about making every minute a moment of joy or adventure or wonder or love or gratitude.
If Shane’s death teaches us anything, it should be that we should make every moment count by sharing, caring and being grateful. When we live a life of giving, we become more valuable (which is more important than being rich). When we live a life of loving, we receive love (which is more important than any material possession). When we live a life of gratitude, we experience joy and that is exactly where we all want to be.
My thoughts go out to Shane’s family. If it is any consolation, Shane has been immortalised in our minds and hearts as a handsome, happy, wonderfully gifted athlete who lived life to the full and went out in his prime. He will never have to become old and weak, lose his faculties or be made to feel that he is a burden to society. Perhaps this is how we would all want to go some day. I hope that those who loved him like I did will find some comfort in this thought.
This video is dedicated to Shane Warne, the greatest bowler of my life.