“Waking to the loving faces of my wife and kids – I knew instantly what a lucky man I was.”

What does ‘lucky’ mean to you? You might feel grateful for a successful job or wonderful family and friends. Would you feel lucky if you had a heart attack? Probably not – surely a life-threatening heart attack is best described as unlucky. Joel Wilson thinks otherwise.

“I feel lucky because I’m still here and lucky that I now know what’s going on in my body and so I can do something about it. I see it as a positive thing that will extend my life. In fact, the only bit I find frightening about my whole ordeal is that my denial nearly cost me my life. My lovely wife Bec and my beautiful kids could have lost their dad.”

photo of Joel Wilson and his family
Joel Wilson and his family

As an ex-professional rugby player, a healthy, physically active 45-year-old who eats well and rarely drinks, Joel seemed a very unlikely candidate for a heart attack. As Joel says, “if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone”.

Every day, heart attacks are happening to people just like Joel. In the month following a heart attack, survivors are at the greatest risk of having another heart attack – which has a higher risk of being fatal. We urgently need your help to find out why, so we can find ways to predict not only who is at risk but also how to stop them from having another heart attack.

Joel has made a great recovery following a life-saving triple bypass operation – but not everyone is this lucky.

The research that could help

Understanding what happens after a heart attack is so important in preventing further heart attacks and helping people live longer.

Dr Giannie Barsha from the BioHEART study explains, “After a heart attack, the heart stiffens and becomes what we call fibrotic – which can then stop the heart from pumping properly. Your body’s reaction is to trigger an acute inflammatory response, which is critical to repair and regenerate the heart tissue. However, there’s an increasing body of evidence that suggests that sometimes this inflammatory response becomes exaggerated (or “hyper”), and this can in fact have the opposite effect – causing severe scar formation and enlargement of the heart, which can lead to heart failure”. 

A lot of the anti-inflammatory treatments are ineffective and have serious side effects. Dr Basha and her team are investigating a promising new drug called PKT 100 which has encouraging results in early-stage studies. If this success continues to be proven, this drug could be the difference between life and death for heart patients.

By donating to heart research today you can help fund exciting new projects such as Dr Giannie Barsha’s, looking at what happens in the body after a heart attack to prevent them re-occuring

Together we can change the future of heart disease for us and all our loved ones because as Joel says:

 “Knowledge is power. Disease is manageable if you know about it. It’s the not knowing that is scary and dangerous. Because not knowing can rob you of your life and your loved ones of their precious time with you. I have no doubt knowing about what is happening in my body has prolonged my life and enabled me to be aware, so I can deal with it going forward into the future.

I am also so grateful for the level of medical expertise and care I experienced – it was fantastic. It so important for all of us, as there are nearly 60,000 of us who have a heart attack every year in Australia, that we continue to support life-saving research so in the future everyone can be as lucky as I am!”