Jean ticks a healthy beat as government tackles heart disease

Jean ticks a healthy beat at Hurstville Private Hospital as federal government tackles heart disease


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Pacing on: A pacemaker has made a world of difference to Jean Ferguson, 90, who is pictured with Hurstville Private Hospital doctor Ee-May Chia and cardiologist Calvin Hsieh. Picture: Chris Lane

Pacing on: A pacemaker has made a world of difference to Jean Ferguson, 90, who is pictured with Hurstville Private Hospital doctor Ee-May Chia and cardiologist Calvin Hsieh. Picture: Chris Lane

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Mission to boost heart health.

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It was only by chance that Jean Ferguson, 90, of Mortdale, discovered she had a heart problem.

After a nasty fall that required several stitches to her face, emergency doctors at St George Hospital noticed she also had an irregular heart beat.

She was taken to Hurstville Private Hospital, and was almost immediately given a pacemaker.

Her heart problem came as a surprise to her family, because she never showed any signs of distress. But there was some family history, with her mother having angina.

"I was only at St George for a few hours and they decided to move me," she said.

With the pacemaker, her energy levels rose - something her family quickly noticed - even before Mrs Ferguson realised herself she was starting to feel a little more lively.

"I don't feel any stronger, I guess I'm not improving with age, I'm reasonably alright," she said.

Mrs Ferguson had a blockage in her heart, where the main chamber was bringing her blood pressure down to dangerous levels.

Hurstville Private Hospital cardiologist Calvin Hsieh says it was lucky she was treated early.

"Her heart was stopping for a few seconds," he said. "It's more common in the elderly. It's a bit like the wiring of a house, as it ages, you get more problems."

He says Mrs Ferguson was the ideal candidate for a pacemaker - a device that has dramatically improved since it was first introduced.

"It's been around for about 50 years but when it first came in, it would take up the whole abdomen and only last a few months," Dr Hsieh said. "Now it's a little bigger than a 50 cent coin and can last 12-15 years."

The federal government is also injecting $220 million for a 10-year mission for cardiovascular health, with the aim of continuing to focus efforts to help prevent deaths, which are largely preventable.

The mission will support Australia's talented researchers to develop new strategies to tackle the disease. It will include solutions to improve the outcomes of women with coronary artery disease and heart attack (who suffer twice the rate of death as their male counterparts), and to improve access and effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation for all Australians.

Dr Hsieh, who specialises in cardiac electrophysiology, says women also do not typically present with the same symptoms as men when it comes to heart health. "Often it can get brushed off and missed in emergency," he said. "But every second counts when it comes to being diagnosed earlier."

The story Jean ticks a healthy beat as government tackles heart disease first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.

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