Kyle, you can’t make light of chest pains, mate. It’s too serious.

Take it from me, I know what I’m talking about

Comment from Peter Saxon

Last week, while broadcasting from a studio in London, Kyle Sandilands felt chest pains. Despite the seriousness of his condition, in the best broadway tradition of “the show must go on,” he kept presenting his KIIS 106.5 breakfast show with Jackie O even while a doctor, called in by his manager, was examining him. 

The next morning, he revealed the incident to his audience in a way that only Kyle can, calling the attendant doctor an “arsehole” because he felt that the medico was being judgemental about him being overweight, smoking and having high blood pressure. You can listen to the full audio below.

I was the first kid on my block to have a heart attack… at age 43.

It was a massive wake up call.

That was 21 years ago. Frankly, I had cheated death. Yet, at the time, I almost felt as if life had cheated me. You see, I’d given up smoking a full year before. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done and I felt that life owed me a better outcome for my efforts. Of course, had I still been smoking, instead of a wake-up call, I would more likely not have woken up at all. Fact is that for many people the first symptom of heart disease is death.

Instead I found myself in intensive care at RPA. Lucky, because RPA is as good a facility as any in the world for coronary care. 

A triple by-pass ensued and thanks to the miracle of modern medical science I was virtually ‘cured’… on the proviso that I look after myself. Which I do, kind of. I’m still considerably overweight and I drink more than doctors recommend but I exercise (moderately) and every meal is made fresh from scratch with lots of vegetables and a huge dose of love from my wife, Pauline.

What I don’t do is smoke or take illicit drugs. And I avoid sugar except on very special occasions. As importantly, I do everything I can to eliminate or reduce the stress factors in my life. While a healthy diet and exercise is vitally important, many doctors will admit that constant stress actually outranks them as a risk factor.

When assessing risk, the best judges are bookies. In the case of life expectancy, the bookies are life insurance actuaries. When I was last assessed, I found they had six occupational categories with 1 being the lowest risk and 6 the highest. Guess what category radio announcers were in?

Yep, Category 6. Only eclipsed by Islamic State terrorists and slightly better than rodeo clowns were radio presenters along with ad agency execs and virtually anyone with anything to do with media. Unsurprisingly, actuaries were in Category 1 along with others in truly boring but secure occupations and the odd retired billionaire without a care in the world.

As my late mother used to say, “The thing about life is that you can’t get out of it alive.” Although it scanned better in her native Hungarian, nonetheless there’s a certain wry humour that speaks to the fact that we’ve all got to go sometime, it’s just a question of how and when. Any wonder then that one of the main topics of conversation on air, in print and around the house is about finding ways to manipulate the inevitable to our advantage.

Of course, you could get run over by a bus tomorrow – which is a common excuse from those who are either tired of living or have given up trying. But let’s face it, life’s a lottery. Anything can happen. 

There are plenty of examples of people who drank, smoked, lived sedentary lives reaching 90+ years of age just as there are those who were fit, treating their bodies like a temple, yet died young. And even-money favourites have been known to be beaten by 100 to 1 long shots at Flemington too. But not often.

Insurance company actuaries, like bookies, know that the more risk factors you’ve got the more the odds stack up against you and the less likely you are to beat them. That’s why, if they insure you at all, the premiums will be astronomical compared to fit non-smokers who work as posties and have never had a pain in their chest.

But Kyle, who am I to lecture you? You’ve heard it all before from people much better qualified and closer to you than me. You’re an adult. I’m not your nanny. And I’m far from perfect myself. How you live your life is your business. But you have listeners. 

Like it or not, some of them look up to you and hang off your every word. You’re a big time celebrity. As they say, “Men want to be you. Women want to be with you.” Call me a silly old fart (many do) but I reckon there’s a responsibility that goes with that.

Allow me to explain. Part of the reason I’m alive today is thanks to radio. 

When I was I having my heart attack, I wasn’t sure what was happening to me. It was after midnight, we were getting ready for bed when I started to feel a “discomfort.” It felt more akin to indigestion or heartburn than what I imagined to be a classic heart attack – you know, clutching your chest and writhing on the floor in debilitating pain. So I kept chewing on antacids hoping to ease my indigestion. To no avail.  

What saved me was a schedule of CSAs that had been running on radio on medium rotation over the few weeks prior to my incident. The message was that if you were experiencing any one of a range of symptoms, you should call an ambulance or get yourself to hospital, pronto. “Plenty of people have died from heart attacks. No one has died of embarrassment by presenting with a false alarm.” That and my wonderful wife, who insisted she call an ambulance, saved my life that night. I have never felt a sense of embarrassment about anything since.

Kyle, I appreciate that you’ve made your name on the back of your unique brand of irreverence, regardless of the topic. And you ‘done good’ by calling a doctor right away. You’re upfront and even self deprecating about your contributing factors like obesity and high blood pressure. More kudos to you for that. 

Yet, I get the impression that either you’re not taking any of this as seriously as you should or you’re privately shitting yourself while yukking it up for your audience. Either way, some of your listeners may not be taking it as seriously as they should. 

If nothing else, at the end of your segment, you could have said something like: Seriously, if you are feeling chest pains, get to a hospital right away. Don’t worry about your doctor’s bedside manner or whether you think he or she is being overly judgemental. This is a life or death situation. I was lucky. You may not be. So, take your doctor’s advice, even if you think he’s an arsehole and get proper treatment. It may just save your life.


Peter Saxon


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