Cardiovascular disease remains a huge problem in our society. 1 in 4 deaths in Australia are caused by heart attacks or stroke. Women and men of all ages are treated at Prince of Wales Hospital under the specialist care of our cardiac team. Patients are flown in from regional areas of NSW as well as interstate to be treated with state-of-the-art equipment and medical breakthroughs because of lab-to-bedside research.
At just 55, Karen suffered a heart attack. “It happened at Christmas time in 2019 with all the events and festivities along with end-of-year work schedules and commitments,” Karen recalls. “It caught us all off guard.” “I was at work when I started feeling a weight in my chest, nausea, cramps and a headache. I knew something was wrong and ended up driving myself to the Prince of Wales Hospital. I walked into Emergency in high heels – all glammed up. Little did I know that I would not leave hospital for two weeks. Paul received the call. He was in shock – he never imagined a life without his wife and mother to our three beautiful kids, in the prime of our lives.” Karen told me she is only here today because no stone was left unturned to find out what was wrong. Plaque had blocked the blood flow to her heart, and a piece had broken off, tearing an artery. “It could have been instant death,” Karen says, “but the doctors and nurses saved my life. I had two stents put in.”
Just 20 months later Karen was going through it all again – this time with Paul.
“To witness Paul’s heart attack at just 59 after a surf, right in front of our house was totally surreal. Paul was rushed off in an ambulance while the kids were watching in utter distress.
We just couldn’t believe it. How could this happen to us again?” Something that eased the huge shock was knowing Paul was heading to the Prince of Wales Hospital. In the ambulance an ECG was measuring Paul’s heart activity whilst being monitored by staff at the hospital. Within 30 minutes, he went from his driveway to surgery and had two stents implanted into arteries that were 95% blocked – the same as Karen’s. But unlike Karen, COVID meant Paul couldn’t have any visitors. He could only communicate by phone. The isolation was extremely difficult. “The quality of care I received put me at ease,” Paul says. He is very grateful he sustained no permanent damage to his heart, thanks to the cardiac team acting so quickly and effectively. “If this had happened 10 or 20 years ago, one or both of us might not have survived.” Paul has been in recovery for the past two months. In addition to cardiac rehab, he is taking part in a first of its kind Teleclinical Care trial conducted by Prince of Wales Hospital and UNSW.
Teleclinical Care utilises a phone app developed by the cardiology team to reduce the risk of further heart attacks. There are almost 600,000 admissions for cardiovascular disease in Australia each year. That’s over 1,600 a day! Of those patients, more than half are readmitted to hospital within one year. The trial has already proven the benefits of Teleclinical Care which you can read more about on the back of the form enclosed. Due to the success of the trial, the program will be rolled out across NSW in 2022.
As for Paul and Karen, they’re looking forward to spending this holiday season with each other, their children and extended family. This year will be a time of reflection and gratitude after all they’ve endured. This challenging experience has brought the family even closer, and Karen has one wish for Christmas. “I want to continue to live my best life, with the love of my life.” This year has shown us all that we can’t take anything for granted – at any moment life can change unexpectedly. What matters most is knowing that when the worst happens, the best help is available.
The Cardiology team that saved Karen and Paul’s lives is just one of the specialist teams at the Prince of Wales Hospital our Foundation continues to support. We couldn’t do it without valued donors like you, and I hope you’ll support us again this festive season. Head to www.powhf.org.au/heart to support.