Did you know that one Australian dies of a heart disease every 11 minutes? Six children are born every day with a heart condition. Heart disease affects two out of three families and prevents more than 1 million people from living a full life. For many these are just statistics, but for Australian hearts4heart CEO Tanya Hall this is a reality and a personal story.
Tanya was born with a hole in her heart and a heart murmur. When she was six months old, a heart condition was detected by the cardiologists as she was admitted to hospital with wheezing bronchitis. From then on, she paid regular visits to the cardiologist until the age of nine. It was only when her parents moved interstate that her new cardiologist booked her in immediately for open heart surgery.
“While a lot of people can live with a hole in their hearts – and some even close up – mine just kept getting bigger. I was always out of breath; my lips would turn blue and I was frequently unwell. Had they not operated, doctors said I would have been dead by the age of 15,” Tanya says.
“I was vomiting, my heart was racing at 200 beats per minute, I was experiencing chest pain and felt as though I was going to faint. Somehow I made it to a taxi and into my doctor’s surgery, where it eventually stopped.”
Tanya says she experienced more episodes over the next 12 years but in the last three years her heart has got progressively worse. Luckily, she was referred to her Professor who is an internationally renowned and respected, specialist in Electrophysiology. Since then, she has had many heart procedures and her condition continues to be a managed illness.
This has been a rather challenging journey for Tanya who said that the longer she was unwell, the more she isolated herself from friends and family. She was afraid of losing her job and not being able to support herself and, more importantly, afraid she might not survive one of those frightening episodes. She struggled to find a support group, forum or anyone to talk to who was going through her same journey.
Struggling to improve her health and deal with her fears, she realised the need for a support group to help people who suffer from a heart condition. “The more I researched the more I was amazed by the statistics and the more determined I became to change them.”
That was the genesis for hearts4heart, created as a health promotion charity supporting, educating and empowering people living with heart disease. At hearts4heart members are provided with online forums, discussion topics, healthy living advice and the possibility to share their stories with others.
Heart disease not only affects the elderly but also the young. Tanya says there are thousands of young cardiac patients struggling to live with a chronic heart disease with minimal support. The existence of organisations like this is crucial to assist people, especially adolescents, who may be feeling isolated, depressed and anxious about when the next attack will come. It also helps those who do not have any financial assistance and are forced to work even when they are unfit to do so.
Hearts4heart encourages its members to live a healthier and happier lives by removing that sense of isolation and providing them with accurate medical information on managing anxiety and depression. The organisation also coordinates national support events aimed to establish network groups and to engage members.
Heart disease does not discriminate between the young and the old. The silence and isolation of those suffering from a heart condition encourages Tanya and her team to keep doing what they are doing.
The support of hearts4heart reassures those living with a heart condition that they have somebody to turn to in difficult times.
To host a fundraising event, volunteer or make a donation visit the hearts4heart website.