DUBAI // Aftab Ahmed Ismail Sheikh awoke from a sound sleep with an unusual sensation.
"I could not open my eyes or speak," he said. "I was trying to shout for help, but I couldn't."
Mr Sheikh, 75, has had hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, for nearly 30 years, and his son assumed that was the problem.
"He was semi-unconscious and acting really strange," said his son Imran Sheikh.
"So my first instinct was to get him something sweet to eat."
Mr Sheikh's wife, Mumtaz, rushed to call an ambulance. Fifteen minutes later, paramedics arrived at the Sheikhs' doorstep.
Within minutes of being admitted to Rashid Hospital, at about 5.30am, Mr Sheikh was given an electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical activity in the heart.
He was diagnosed with a mild, or what doctors refer to as a "silent" heart attack, one that often has hidden symptoms.
Mr Sheikh, who is also a diabetic, has a family history of heart and blood problems.
His father had a heart attack, and his brother died of a heart attack that was most likely triggered by diabetes.
The fact that Mr Sheikh had smoked 10 to 15 cigarettes a day for about 10 years when he was younger could have also played a role, said Dr Khalifa Mohammed, a senior specialist in cardiology at Rashid Hospital.
Before discharging Mr Sheikh, Dr Mohammed gave him a "road map" of precautions and advice, including a series of check-ups and recommended food intake.
Mr Sheikh's family now understands the importance of the preventive measures.
"We have to be very serious in taking care of his health," Mumtaz said. "This includes the medication he has to take and the food he eats."
To Mr Sheikh, this means having less of his favourite foods, including omelettes and papadum.
But he realises that he must make compromises.
"I don't want to go to the hospital again," he said. "I'll regret it if something happens."