David Rutherford wants people to have a cardiovascular
check before it's too late. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A South Dunedin man's brush with New Zealand's biggest
killer changed his life forever.
Triple bypass survivor David Rutherford (47) said
cardiovascular disease killed more New Zealanders than any
''Every 90 minutes, somebody dies of heart disease in New
In 2007, Mr Rutherford managed staff at a charitable trust
called YouthWorks and coached the Otago Maori Colts rugby
team, smoked tobacco but did not drink alcohol.
On holiday in Lake Hawea he felt a tightness in the chest.
''I thought I had picked up a virus and put myself to bed and
spent 12 hours tossing and turning and sweating profusely
[and] absolutely freezing cold. The next day, I never felt
the same again. It felt like the hand-brake had been pulled
He went to the doctor expecting a chest infection diagnosis
but was rushed to the emergency department, when a test
revealed he needed three stents inserted in his heart.
''One of my arteries was 97%blocked [by a build-up of fat and
calcium deposits] and I probably had a couple of days [to
Unfortunately, the three stents were blocked four months
later so two more stents were inserted but failed, he said.
He had bypass surgery at Dunedin Hospital, where his breast
bone was broken, his chest opened with rib spreaders and his
mammary artery used to ''replumb'' his heart.
''It changes your life completely. As a family, we lost 70%
of our income in the five minutes I got sick in Hawea. I lost
my salary and company vehicle. I tried to work but I just
wasn't physically capable.''
He worked part time at Wolfenden & Russell in South
Dunedin but finished after 15 months because he was sweating
uncontrollably and fell asleep on the job twice, he said.
''I was running myself into the ground and I was only doing
four or five hours a day. It robs you of everything.''
In 2008, he volunteered at the Heart Foundation to encourage
people to get a cardiovascular check by a doctor before it
was too late. He would be collecting in Dunedin for Heart
Week on Friday and Saturday, he said.