Personal Stories

Inspirational and heartwarming stories from heart survivors who all share a common bond: a second chance at life. Explore the stories of real survivors.

Stories from the Heart

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Kate and Olly

Kate and Olly were the perfect love story. After meeting at a local community ball, it was love at first sight and not long after meeting they moved in together, with Olly becoming a caring father figure to Kate’s daughter. Sadly, in late 2014, all their dreams came crashing down, when Olly collapsed onto the floor while they were enjoying a quiet afternoon in their garden shed.

Sadly, in late 2014, all their dreams came crashing down, when Olly collapsed onto the floor while they were enjoying a quiet afternoon in their garden shed.

Kate recalls “I called out to him over and over as I dialled 000 and watched Olly convulsing violently on the floor while the dispatch officer talked me through what to do. Two ambulances were there within minutes and after assessing his condition called for an ICU vehicle to attend as they feared he would die there and then”.

As Olly had collapsed falling hard on the ground, doctors assumed he had a concussion and told Kate she could go home to collect him the next day. However, when Kate arrived to presumably take Olly home she knew he wasn’t well.

“As soon as I saw him, I knew something was seriously wrong. He was yellow to look at and sweating. Within an hour he took a turn for the worse when his oxygen absorption was non-existent and they went to rush him to ICU”.

Devastatingly, Olly never made it to ICU. Unbeknown to anyone, Olly had an extremely enlarged heart and had suffered an aortic dissection, which meant that his aorta had torn away from his heart. If it had ruptured through he would have almost certainly died immediately, but it was a partial tear that leaked through into the aorta wall and subsequently, the walls of his heart which sadly resulted in him passing away.

Olly was a regular supporter of Heart Research Australia, but had never had his heart checked.

Kate says “I know I can’t bring him back, but I hope that by raising awareness it might encourage one person to have a heart check that may save a life. I continue to support Heart Research Australia in honour of Olly’s memory”.

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Keith Broadfoot

Keith Broadfoot, who despite being a young and fit man, suffered a heart attack in 2013 and has been determined to ‘get back on the bike’ ever since, not letting a heart attack defeat his passion for living a full life.

Keith is a true survivor and an inspiration to everyone who has ever experienced heart disease. He has overcome all odds by completing one of the world’s biggest marathons – the Berlin Marathon. This is his own account of his remarkable journey.
The 27th of September 2015 marked 21 months to the day since I had my heart attack, what better way to mark this milestone than by running the Berlin Marathon, my first fun run since that crazy day.

During the 12 months post heart attack I had experienced a number of complications in my recovery, and had regularly been in and out of hospital, however, come the start of 2015 things settled down. In February 2015 I took part in Heart Research Australia’s REDFEB Challenge, cycling a 1,000 km’s over the month, which was the start of getting back into regular exercise once again and I gained so much confidence from this challenge.

In April 2015 I secured a spot for the Berlin Marathon and jumped into my run training. The Berlin Marathon is one of the biggest marathons in the world with some 40,000 runners taking to the streets on race day, encouraged by a million spectators that create a truly electric atmosphere.

Conditions on race day were perfect and my plan was to a hold 4:45 min km pace. Now plans are wonderful if you stick to them, however, I got a little carried away by the occasion and after a slow start with the congestion of other runners around me I was soon in ‘clear air’ and running 4:10 min km pace, going through half way in 1 hour 30 mins. My exuberance caught up with me around the 30 km mark as my legs tired and my pace dropped off and I came home in 3hrs 22mins.

In the early days and weeks following my heart attack there was a lot of uncertainty as to how my recovery would play out. Prior to my heart attack, running and triathlon had been a huge part of my life, so coming through the Brandenburg gate at the finish filled me with emotion, it was such a wonderful feeling to once again be able to participate in such an event.

I am indebted to all my friends and family who have helped me on this journey, but in particular the wold class team of medical professionals at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital led by Dr Gemma Figtree, that not only saved my life against some pretty ordinary odds. but were able to put me back together to the point where I can once again enjoy taking part in marathons.

Having a heart attack and being fortunate enough to have survived it has undoubtedly been a life changing experience, but surprisingly in a good way in that I have gained a far better appreciation of life and I would like to think that I have become a better and more balanced person as a result.

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Emily Tutt

In 2008, Emily Tutt was at school enjoying a normal Year 11 day, when her heart suddenly started beating extremely and abnormally fast. She was sent to the sick bay and waited for her mum to fetch her. Her mum took her to the hospital, but her heart went back to a ‘normal’ rhythm before they arrived, making a diagnosis difficult for the doctors.

Shortly afterwards, her heart started its erratic beating again on two separate occasions. Luckily each time she reached the hospital in time to have an ECG machine test her heart beat, which subsequently indicated that she had Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) – a heart rhythm disorder.

Later that year, Emily underwent surgery to correct her heart beat. Unfortunately it was during this time that her youngest brother Charles was also diagnosed with SVT.

In 2010, when Emily was at work, she had another episode of SVT which meant she had to another radiofrequency catheter ablation in February 2011.

In June 2014 Emily’s health took another ‘knock’. She was diagnosed with cardiac abnormalities: Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Sinus Tachycardia. AF is a form of arrhythmia and affects over 200,000 Aussies – it is caused by disorganised electrical impulses in both atria, and was not related to Emily’s previous heart condition. The most common reasons for AF in the community are ageing and high blood pressure, neither of which relate to Emily.AF does occur in young people who have clear triggering factors such as excess alcohol intake – however this also does not apply to her.

Unfortunately there is no specific treatment or cure for AF, but Emily is taking beta blockers to help regulate the electrical activity of her heart and minimise the effect of the AF which so far has been effective.

Should the drug therapy stop managing her condition, Emily does have another option, such as a fairly new procedure that has only been around for six years. This however wouldn’t cure but simply treat the symptoms.

“Everyone gets thrown a few curveballs in their life. I’ve certainly had my fair share. But this journey has taught me that heart research is extremely important in identifying new ways to prevent, treat and diagnose heart disease” said Emily.

“If it wasn’t for research, as funded by Heart Research Australia, there would be a strong possibility I wouldn’t be here today and nor would many of my family members, who are also affected by heart disease.”

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James Partington

In May of 2012 I picked up a mild chest infection, following a visit to the Dr’s which involved a number of tests I was called back immediately. The Dr had found a slight heart murmur (which was not the root problem). I was referred to cardiologist immediately for an ultrasound and general check. Following a number of minor procedures (aortic angio being one of them) I was diagnosed with a Bicuspid aortic valve, moderate regurgitation and an aortic aneurism of over 50mm.

I was naturally shocked but still in denial – as I knew nothing about this disorder. It was genetic and at that point I was asked about family history and any sudden deaths in the family. Aortic aneurisms are a silent killer. I was 37 and although I wasn’t told it my life expectancy wasn’t looking good (much past 40) if it went untreated.

I acted straight away and reached out to Dr Michael Wilson from RPA –I know Michael personally through our wives and our children used to have swimming lessons together. We talked about the course of treatment and the operation I would need to have. I new Aortic valve and replacement of the ascending aorta – an operation that would take 8 hours, involve stopping my heart, going on bypass and then restarting me. We decided on the sort of heart valve based on my physical activity – at the time I was running half marathons, swimming most days in the ocean with the Bold and Beautiful swim group – a 1.5km swim in open water. I have always been fit and healthy – never smoked, ate healthy foods. You can imagine my frustration I only ever thought heart conditions happen to unfit, overweight, beer swilling, cigarette smoking reckless people. It was important that after my recovery I could go back to doing what I’ve always done (in moderation obviously!)

After further test in the July and August Michael advised me to have the operation in September, I booked myself into Macquarie university hospital – I had good private health cover and wanted the best treatment and a leading institution in this area. I also opted into a research program with Dr. Ratnasari Padang Cardiology Fellow and PhD Scholars at the Bicuspid Aortic Valve Study Coordinator – Agnes Ginges Centre for Molecular Cardiology.

I have always believed the advancements of medicine and need for research forms the fundamentals in things like product development – be it drugs or devices and anything I can do to help (albeit small – is a good thing).

So I had the op on September the 6th 2012 – people warn you about how traumatic it is and use words like “you’ll feel like you’ve been hit my a truck.” I felt like it had hit me and come back for a couple more goes. My wife was distraught and holding the family together – her strength was incredible. We have 3 boys 8,7 and 2 – being so young they didn’t fully understand the gravity of what was happening.

I had a few hick-ups in hospital – some atrial fibrillation but all fixable and after 10 days came out and started rehab – well my own version of it. My goal was to get back in the water asap – November was my goal ( I did it by the end of October ) first swimming one length of Fairlight ocean pool and slowly building up. My daily routine was eat, walk, sleep – repeat with the occasional swim.

After 8 weeks I was back at work (I run my own business with 6 staff). By Christmas I was back in the Bold and Beautiful swim.

Once a year I go back for a check up with my cardiologist – Prof. Richmond Jeremy at SCC. I am better than back to normal – fitter healthier and couldn’t be more grateful to the people and services I received. I contacted Medtronic and put myself forward as an advocate ( I have a Freestyle porcine valve).

Heart disease affects all walks of life, the more we know about it the better equipped we will be to understand and develop better ways to care for people. With a growing population and higher obesity rates – its common sense that we have to not just raise awareness but raise funds and channel those funds into the right areas so that we can all benefit.

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Alessandro Pavoni

“After my first heart attack, I kept hearing the doctors using jargon that later I learned were the names of cardiac procedures and methodologies that the Foundation had funded. That was when I first understood that I owed them my life,” said Alessandro.

Brescian-born chef Alessandro Pavoni blasted into Sydney’s dining scene in 2009 with his first restaurant venture, northern Italian gem Ormeggio at the Spit.

At the age of 38 Alessandro had his first heart attack, followed by a second within 8 months. Now he is determined to spread the word that heart research matters.

“After my first heart attack, I kept hearing the doctors using jargon that later I learned were the names of cardiac procedures and methodologies that the Foundation had funded. That was when I first understood that I owed them my life,” said Alessandro.

“Being able to support Heart Research Australia by being an Ambassador and sharing my story and support is really important to me. The more people that know about their great work the better for all of us!”

At the age of 36 Alessandro had his first heart attack, followed by another one in 2010. He was treated at Royal North Shore Hospital. Alessandro is Executive Chef and owner of Ormeggio at The Spit, Chiosco and Spiedo Restaurant & Bar.

Alessandro and his wife Anna are determined to spread the message that heart research saves lives by supporting Heart Research Australia.

Alessandro lives on the northern beaches with his Australian wife, Anna and two children Jada and Luca. In his spare time he can be found long boarding on one of the many local beaches, cruising on his Harley or cooking up a storm in his backyard for friends and family.

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Share your heart journey

Survivors of heart disease are not alone. In fact, many of them choose to share their stories to reach out to the community and help others. They share their stories to champion hope and support to help us fight the devastation of heart disease. Contact us at 02 9436 0056 or via email  enquiries@heartresearch.com.au if you wish to share your heart journey with our community.