After reading the ‘Weekly’s recent article about Heartbeat Mildura and the donation made to the organisation by the Simonetta family following the death of their loved one Joe, Mildura resident Celestina Mammone said she had a feeling of deja vu reading the story.

“The actions of the Simonetta family and their decision to give a donation in lieu of flowers after the passing of their loved father and husband to Heartbeat Sunraysia resonated with me in many ways. I have lost many members of my family – the youngest 33 years old as well as those into their sixties, including my mother aged 68 with a massive cardiac arrest,” Celestina said.

“In late 1988 I became lethargic and felt as though I had a heavy load on my chest. The next day I saw my GP, Dr Gai Barnes, and after listening to my symptoms she sent me to Dr. Soward.

“After many tests and ECGs, Dr Soward made arrangements for me to go to Cabrini Hospital and undergo an angiogram.

“As my condition deteriorated quickly, I ended up in the Intensive Care Unit where I was diagnosed with unstable angina.”

Celestina, who is 91 years of age, said that Dr Soward changed the itinerary and just one day after her 59th birthday she was on the Royal Flying Doctor’s plane to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where an angiogram showed she needed to undergo a quadruple bypass.

Celestina tells her story from that moment on:

“This unexpected diagnosis threw me into shock shaking uncontrollably. The good news was that I had three of the leading cardiologists in Australia at that time under the helm of Mr Ian Ross.

“Being away from my husband due to it being picking time, and having my two daughters and son who lived hundreds of miles away, it was very depressing. But, I was lucky to have so many friends in South Australia who visited me on a daily basis.

“One very special visitor was foundation member of Heartbeat Sunraysia, Mac Hudson whom I had met previously. It was just two days after my surgery and so I was, and looked, a sorry state. After about a month I came home to convalesce.

“The fact that I had survived, I wanted to thank God for sparing me for a second chance in life. I realised that a great way of keeping the cause was to indulge in money raising ventures, which I did by holding garden party luncheons and coffee mornings etc. with all proceeds going to Heartbeat Sunraysia.

From 1994 till 2004 I supported the cause. In 2004 my late husband Phil and I moved to Ballarat to be close to our daughters and grandchildren who lived and worked in the area … and also knowing the region had top specialists and hospitals.

“On July 1, I went for a walk around Lake Gardens, when I felt severe pain in the jaw bone which I thought may have been my osteoarthritis.

“As soon as I got home I told my husband I was feeling very bad, when suddenly I felt severe pain in the kidney area and collapsed on the floor.

“My husband called for an ambulance and within 10 minutes I found myself at the emergency department at St John of God Hospital in Ballarat, where a leading Ballarat cardiologist Dr Hussain Chardhary was on duty.

“He told me I had suffered a heart attack and a collapsed lung. He discussed the situation with the family, and after collaborating with Dr Soward in Mildura, and Melbourne leading cardiologist Professor James Tatoulis, they decided to replace four previous grafts which, all but one, were 100 per cent blocked.

“The family came into the ICU of the Melbourne Private Hospital and they remarked later that they thought I would not make it.

“The reason I am writing this is that this hidden disease kills more people than cancer − many unfortunately are young people.

“As Silvana Simonetta rightly pointed out, all donations, every dollar is used for the benefit of our local hospital. Being a member of Heartbeat gives you a feeling of belonging to a large family and after a patient comes home, a member will visit and discuss their wellbeing, a kind note or a phone call all helps for the patient to recuperate.

“My advice to people, look after your health and at least have a complete check up with your doctor each year. What you may think is a bad case of indigestion, may be a heart attack or vice versa.

“It will be time well spent and you may have a second chance of life.

“I sincerely hope you will find this article worthy of being published. I want to remind people that in a split second your life can be taken away!”

The ‘Weekly certainly did think your story worthy of publication and thanks you for your contribution to this important cause.

For further information about Heartbeat Sunraysia contact Jeff Gregory on 0427 596 809 or email: sunraysiaheartbeatvictoria.org.au.