Living Here Living In Hong Kong

Getting to the heart of the matter

By: Maggie Thurgood

Our writer reflects on a health scare that had her fearing the worst in a reader story from our Parting Shot series.

A health scare had one woman searching for answers in this EL reader story
A health scare had one woman searching for answers in this EL reader story

I’ve always considered myself to be reasonably fit and healthy, but a recent near-death experience has left me thinking otherwise. By “near-death” I mean I thought I was dying, but it turns out I wasn’t even close.

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One bright Saturday morning a while back I decided to join my husband at his weekly “box-fit” class – a perfectly virtuous way to start the weekend, or so I thought. About halfway through, I started suffering from intense chest pain and a pounding heart.

Imagining the worst, I went straight to my doctor, who told me I was “far too young” to be experiencing chest pain. I’m not often told I’m too young for anything so after I hugged her, I asked if it could just be stress. Of course, worrying about the cause of my chest pain was causing me more stress at that point than anything else, so she sent me off to see a cardiologist, to get things checked out.

I was fortunate enough to secure an appointment almost immediately – one of the benefits of the world-class private health care available in Hong Kong. There were no waiting lists, no queues, no snooty receptionists prioritising me based on my level of need; it was all very efficient, as you would expect here.

But in true HK style, after brandishing my health insurance card, the doctor could barely conceal the dollar signs in his eyes, and I was subjected to every possible cardiac test available. I’ve added these to the long list of MRIs, CT scans, blood tests and “investigative procedures” I’ve endured “to rule things out” in my time in this city. They do like to be thorough here, and when you’re a mild hypochondriac that can either be very reassuring, or just make things a whole lot worse!

After being poked and prodded, and run on a treadmill like a hamster attached to machines, I then had to endure two weeks of waiting for the result while the clinic shut down for countless public holidays and the doctor took off to some exotic location for a golf tournament – all while my pounding heart kept me up at night, and the chest pain kept me firmly on the sofa and away from exercise of any kind.

After all that testing and waiting, the end result was “normal”. Completely normal. I couldn’t even claim it was stress; in fact, I’m in near perfect health, if only a little deficient in iron – how delightfully mundane! I was relieved, obviously, but still mystified as to why I had felt like I was having a heart attack when I clearly wasn’t.

In the end, it was my physio who finally solved the mystery of my chest pains. I had knocked a couple of ribs out of alignment and pulled some chest muscles during that box-fit class; it all went away after a massage or two. So it would seem that while I may be too young for heart problems, I’m definitely too old for boxing!

Tell us a tale and win HK$1500

Here’s your chance to get published – and make some money at the same time. We’re looking for 500-word written contributions on any funny, poignant, practical or even controversial topic that touches on expat life in Hong Kong. Simply email your stories in a Word document to and we’ll consider them for inclusion in an upcoming issue.

This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.

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