Heart Attack Dad Didn’t Get the Blues – He Joined Them
A local dad had a scare that almost ended his life – but instead of getting the blues, he decided to join them.
Until 2013, Prescot born-and-bred Andrew Critchley, 47, thought life was fine. He was happily married, raising two good kids and getting the mortgage paid on time.
Just a normal dad
“I ate healthily, exercised, drank moderately and was only on four to five cigarettes a day,” said Andrew, describing his former lifestyle.
But the pressures of a nine-to-five managerial job were taking their toll. “It just got more and more stressful,” he told Prescot Online.
Then, on a Monday night almost three years ago, Andrew started feeling a heavy weight on his chest and an ache in his shoulders and teeth.
“I took some Paracetamol because I thought I’d pulled a muscle, and went to bed. Then, on the Wednesday afternoon, I started getting the same pain again.”
His instinct to go to A&E to get his symptoms checked out may just have saved his life.
“They told me it was either one long heart attack lasting for three days or two small ones from the Monday night to the Wednesday,” he said.
“It’s just really surreal when you’re sitting in a hospital bed and the nurse comes in and says, ‘We’ve got the results of your ECG, and you’ve had a heart attack.’ Your head just starts going over all sorts.”
Tests showed that one of Andrew’s arteries was completely blocked. Surgeons performed a coronary angioplasty, a procedure where a stent—a mesh tube—is placed in the artery to widen it, strengthen it and improve blood flow to the heart.
“That’s there for life,” Andrew confided. “I’m on medication for the rest of my life, too.”
What Andrew experienced were relatively mild heart attacks, which he described as warnings which, if ignored, could have recurred and led to bigger and more serious heart attacks.
He wasn’t totally unfit. His fairly active lifestyle had included football coaching ever since his son, Adam, now 13, was born (pictured).
The warning signal brought about big changes, however. Not only was there surgery, medication and intense cardiovascular rehab, but Andrew decided it was time to drop out of the rat race and pursue his dreams.
“I’d worked for the same company for 24 years because it paid the bills, but after all that time you’re just going through the motions.
“I had a passion for coaching, and I had a passion for Everton,” he said. “I got the option to take voluntary redundancy.”
After talking with his family, the avid Blues supporter decided he would use his redundancy pay to fund a period volunteering with the disability section and free school at Everton Football Club. He enjoyed the experience so much, he soon started volunteering with the employment team, helping young people develop skills and find work.
Then, in April 2014, Everton advertised for an employment tutor, and Andrew was offered the job. He seized the chance and is now in his dream career.
Dream ‘Blues’ job
He is now manager of the pan-disability D band team (pictured), which involves people with all kinds of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, ADHD and Down’s syndrome, playing football under the Everton banner.
“We train once a week and have tournaments once a month,” he said.
“I’ve always loved doing junior football team coaching, and working with people with disabilities is completely different but a million times better. It’s so much more rewarding.
“They don’t class themselves as being disabled. You ask them who they play for, and they say Everton. They see themselves as everyday footballers.”
As a member of the Everton employment team, Andrew helps support the club’s ‘five pillars’ of community involvement—health and wellbeing, youth engagement, community and business, sport, and education and employment.
It’s a job that sees young people with low self-esteem and poor self-confidence transformed.
“We get somebody coming in on a six-week course, and on day one they won’t even look you in the eye. They sit with their head down and don’t interact with anybody.
“Then, after six weeks, they’re laughing, joking, meeting up with the other guys on the course on the way in, or they go home together. And the difference in people is absolutely amazing.
“It’s a massive journey for that person, and that transformation is as rewarding as getting them into work.”
In the past year, he has added Time to Change – a programme to get rid of mental health stigma – to his list of responsibilities with the club.
I asked Andrew what memories of his work stood out.
“There was a young girl on the course,” he told me. “The first two weeks, she brought her brother with her every day. She suffered with really bad anxiety and wouldn’t go out of the house on her own.
“She’d just fallen off the social ladder or whatever you want to call it.
“We got her a placement with Dogs Trust in Huyton, and she’s buzzing.
“What I say to people on our course is, if you want something badly enough, you’ll get it. You’ve just got to want it. Push yourself to do it.”
Pushing is exactly what Andrew did to himself after his scare three years ago.
“If someone had said to me back then, ‘You’re going to have a heart attack, but don’t worry about it because six months later you’ll start volunteering at Everton, and six months after that you’ll start working for them, and you’ll get to go to Goodison Park every day and do a job you enjoy,’ I’d have had a laugh.
“So this is like a dream for me, because it’s the team that I love and I’m doing what I love to do.”
“I get to wear my Everton gear every day. We get a free season ticket because we work there, and we get to meet the players occasionally.”
“You don’t even have to be an Evertonian to work there,” he said incredulously.
“Half of our staff are Liverpool supporters, which I find really bizarre and I couldn’t do it, but… the banter’s quite good in work!”
When I asked if he had a message for Prescot Online readers, Andrew repeated, “If you want something, go and get it.”
“I’m one of those people who always said I’m too old to change,” he said.
“But you’re never too old to change anything. Now I can’t see myself doing anything different.”
Find out more about Everton in the Community at www.evertonfc.com/community.
If you have concerns about your own health, visit your GP or visit www.bhf.org.uk to find out more about heart disease prevention, symptoms and treatment.
Photos: Robert Eagleton