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"I was 40 years old when I nearly died on the trading floor"

I no longer work in banking or financial services, but I would like to share this cautionary tale with all who do.

When I was in my 40s, I was a very successful equities broker and was one of the most senior people on the trading floor of a bank in South America. I hadn't had any previous health issues and was living the sort of existence that was then typical of a successful broker: I was out most nights and I was working long hours during the days. 

I was working and I was playing hard.

We were completing a major transaction in which we were selling an entire area of the bank, when a peculiar thing happened. I was talking to our CFO who was sitting in front of me when I started to feel very strange. I could see from her face that there was a problem, but somehow I was unable to process what was happening. There was no pain, but I knew that something was badly wrong and that I needed to get to hospital as soon as possible.

The CFO agreed to drive me. I was able to walk to the car. When I arrived at the hospital, I was slurring my words and they correctly thought I was having a stroke. However, it took several days of tests to discover the source of the issue. It required the insertion of a camera down my throat and some electric shocks to stress my heart. In this way, they found out that when I became highly stressed, a crack appeared in the side of my heart. This enabled so-called "dirty blood" to mix with the blood that was heading to my brain. And because that blood contained clots, it caused the stroke. 

I survived. I took several weeks off work and underwent an operation in which something akin to a small umbrella was inserted through the wall of my heart to prevent the crack from opening in the future. It was a common process in America, but not in South America at that time. The doctor who performed my surgery had only done the same operation twice before. 

When I recovered, I went back to the bank and completed the transaction. But once the transaction was finished, I left my job. I came to realize that when the incident happened, I was extremely stressed out. I also realized that there were other things that I could do. 

Initially, though, I did nothing at all. As time passed, I became bored and people started calling me for advice. Initially, I did some consulting. Today, I run a mining company and a farm. It could have been very different. Make a change before you're forced to. 

Martin Palmer is a pseudonym

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