Former Seasider John O’Kane has warned people who fear they may have a health problem to seek help before it’s too late.
It follows the tragic and untimely death of Leyton Orient manager Justin Edinburgh, who passed away on Saturday, aged 49, five days after a cardiac arrest.
Edinburgh, who guided Orient to the National League title last season, was taken to hospital on Monday last week. The news was particularly poignant for O’Kane, who suffered a health scare this year.
Fortunately the former defender, who made 52 appearances for Pool between 2001 and 2003, sought help before his problem became too serious.
“I noticed I was getting a lot of headaches,” the 44-year-old explained to The Gazette.
“At first I just thought it was normal and not a big deal. But after they continued for a few weeks my wife said I should go and see the doctor.
“I brushed it off and said, ‘I’ll be fine’, as men often do, but it persisted so finally I went.
“My doctor said my blood pressure was 198, which is supposed to be critical, so straight away he referred me to the hospital for tests.
“There the nurse told me I was in danger of having a stroke or a heart attack within weeks or months if I wasn’t seen.
“Obviously that came as a big shock to me as I still looked healthy and I had been feeling okay, other than the headaches.”
After having kidney and blood tests, O’Kane was told he was suffering from hypertension, a condition that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and ultimately death.
He was placed on medication and has since stabilised.
O’Kane added: “If I hadn’t gone for the check-up, who knows what would have happened to me?
“More importantly, what would have happened to my family had I suffered a heart attack or a stroke?
“Justin looked really healthy but the underlying problem wasn’t detected early enough to prevent him from passing away, which is horrendous for his family and friends.
“Everyone should do a six-month check on their health, no matter how healthy you think you are.
“Ex-professional athletes, once they’re retired, think they’re still as fit as they used to be, so they don’t see the need to do any exercise.
“I had that mindset and only played golf, but it’s vital you get your heart-rate pumping on a frequent basis.
“I know of quite a lot of people who are on the same tablets as me. It seems very common, so people need to know there’s no stigma.
“Don’t bury your head in the sand when you think something isn’t right. Go seek help before it’s too late.”