Newstalk ZB political commentator Barry Soper with son Iggy. Photo / Mike Scott
Newstalk ZB senior political correspondent Barry Soper has been admitted to hospital and is to have open-heart surgery to remove a blockage.
“I’d been feeling a bit out of breath walking up hills over the past few weeks and decided to go to my doctor for a check-up,” Soper said today.
“They ran some tests and it turns out I have a blockage near my heart, which needs to be removed through surgery this coming Friday. They’re keeping me in hospital as a precaution before I have the op.”
Soper said the diagnosis had come as a “bit of a shock”.
Soper is married to Newstalk ZB Drive host Heather du Plessis-Allan; the couple have a toddler son, Iggy.
Du Plessis-Allan told her listeners today that they had caught the issue with “a matter of weeks to spare”.
“We’re through the worst of it in terms of the shock and stuff like that, cried all the tears, we need to cry,” she said.
Soper said: “I feel completely fine day to day, but I’m glad I got it checked out”.
“I’m hoping for a quick recovery following surgery so I can get back to normal life running around after Iggy and hopefully playing a part in covering what’s going to be one of the most exciting elections in a generation!”
Du Plessis-Allan told her Drive listeners that they had caught the issue “with a matter of weeks to spare”.
“Barry’s not going to be on air for the next few weeks because unfortunately, he has a little bit of a heart issue, which comes as something of a surprise,” she said.
“He went to his doctor a couple of weeks ago, turns out – and we only found this out yesterday – [it’s] a bit of bit of a shock as you can imagine. He actually needs a bypass which will require open heart surgery, which is massive.
“As you can imagine, it’s been difficult for everybody here, especially for his family.
“He’s ok. He’s in hospital now, which is the best place for him to be. And he’s got surgery later this week and the staff are being amazing as they always are.”
She said if listeners were wondering why she was still at work, “I think routine is probably just about the only thing that’s going to keep me sane”.
There were three lessons from the saga, she said.
If your family has a recurring health problem that’s affected more than one person, get checked for exactly that issue.
“Barry’s cousin died of an unexpected heart issue a few years back,” she said. “He was a marathon runner. He was unbelievably fit and just dropped dead.”
Barry’s uncle died in a similar manner.
“So we had Barry’s heart checked, but we didn’t check for exactly this,” she said.
“We thought he was fine. We didn’t check for exactly this and we needed to, we probably caught this without a word of a lie with a matter of weeks to spare.”
Secondly, if you were feeling dizzy or short of breath, get your heart checked until you knew exactly what was wrong, she said
“And number three for god’s sake, listen to your wife. Honestly, this should actually be rule number one.”
If she says don’t walk up the hill or don’t lift a bag, listen to her.
“You should always know this, put this in the front of your brain – my wife is always right and if you live, according to what your wife says, you’ll live a long time.
“Otherwise, what you find is that your wife is very cross with you today, loves you a huge amount… and wants you around for a long time.”
Boy oh boy, she said, “is your wife cross with you today”.
“Barry is fine. He’s having a lovely time eating all of the food, watching all of the Netflix just relaxing ahead of his surgery … it’ll be absolutely fine.”
NZME chief radio officer Jason Winstanley said the company was providing Soper “all the support we can”.
“All our thoughts and best wishes will be with him, Heather and his family on Friday. We’re wishing him a very speedy, full recovery and we look forward to having him back in the ZB office when the time is right.”
Earlier this year, Soper was honoured by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and invited guests at a function at Parliament, to mark his 42 years on the press gallery frontline.
The former Newstalk ZB political editor – he moved from that role to his commentary role at the start of this year – has been in the privileged position of having an extraordinary peek behind the curtains of power and witnessing the peccadilloes of 11 prime ministers and other MPs.
At the time, Soper said politicians needed to look at journalists “as though we’re theatre critics”.
“I’ve probably pissed off all the politicians in that room [at his function] at some stage but I’m a theatre critic.
“So, I look at them, look at what they’re doing. Look at how they do it, how they approach it, and the end result, and then you go, ‘Well, hang on. It should have been done better than that’. I would have been the most brilliant Prime Minister, of course!” he joked.