ALL HEART: Determined that her late husband’s sudden death from heart disease at just 42 years of age isn’t in vain, Katrina Umback is on a campaign to have an angiogram service ‘Cath Lab’ established in Mildura. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

WHAT started out as a relaxing Australia Day holiday for Katrina Umback and her family suddenly turned tragic when her husband, Scott, suffered a heart attack while doing a physical workout at home.

An ambulance was despatched to take Scott to the emergency department at Mildura Base Hospital, but on arrival he had a cardiac arrest and couldn’t be revived. 

Scott, who was just 42, died of a blocked artery, something he didn’t know he had. 

This unbelievable event left Katrina and her two young sons in a state of total shock.

“Within one-and-a-half-hours, our whole world was turned upside down, our lives forever changed and our hearts ripped to pieces,” Katrina said.

Sharing the story of her sudden and tragic loss is a very emotional experience for Katrina, who has been left to raise her two young boys on her own.

Determined that Scott’s death isn’t in vain, Katrina has made it her mission to shine a spotlight on the prevention of heart disease so that the same fate doesn’t fall on others.

“Thanks to the Heart Foundation, I discovered heart disease is the biggest killer of Australians,” she said. “The good news is that in most cases it’s preventable and treatable. 

“There’s a perception that only ‘old people’ die from heart disease. The fact is it affects men, women, young, old, rich and poor – it doesn’t discriminate.” 

According to statistics, heart disease kills 51 Australians each day – that’s one Aussie every 28 minutes, and the death rate from heart disease in Mildura is 74 out of every 100,000 people, which is higher than the national average of 68 per 100,000 people.

Heart disease is the leading killer of Australian women, killing nearly three times as many women as breast cancer – another little known fact.

As part of her campaign to raise funds and awareness about the risks of heart disease, Katrina will take part in the Melbourne Half Marathon on October 13 this year, which is run over a distance of 21.1kms. 

“It’s just a half-marathon, I don’t think I’m up to a full one – Scott used to run those longer distances,” Katrina said. “The sad irony is that Scott was a fitness fanatic who had competed in two full-marathons.

“People considered Scott to be healthy because he looked fit and healthy. Based on this, I frequently get asked, ‘How did this happen?’ 

“What happened to Scott demonstrates heart health isn’t a look, age or gender issue. It’s something that can strike anyone at any time. 

“However, if you know your risk factors for having heart disease, you can prevent and treat it. 

“I encourage everyone, young, old, male or female to have an annual heart health check with their local GP, and thanks to the work of the Heart Foundation through their lobbying of the Federal Government, heart health checks are now fully-funded by Medicare.”

Katrina is a fitness instructor, and is currently Aligned Leisure’s Head of ‘Healthy Mildura’ – a health promotion program.

“Scott was a qualified sports scientist, so he understood his body quite well,” Katrina said. “He was the manager of Cultural and Leisure Services with Mildura Rural City Council, and prior to that he was the Recreation Development Officer.

“All of the tracks and trails, Mildura Waves, the outdoor pools, the sporting fields and footy ovals and the recreation and sporting programs and facilities the community has were all part of Scott’s responsibilities.

“He was very passionate about people being physically active and having access to those amenities and services.”

To add further weight to her campaign, Katrina has spoken to Member for Mildura, Ali Cupper, and she would also like to collaborate with Federal MP Dr Anne Webster, together with the health services in Mildura – the Private and Base Hospitals and the cardiology specialist services.

“I’d like to see an angiogram service – a ‘Cath Lab’ (Cardiac catheterisation) here in Mildura which would service outlying towns in the region as well, because it is quicker to get here than it is to get to Melbourne,” Katrina said.

“One of the facts I have found is that just by living rurally or remotely substantially increases risk of dying from heart disease.

“We have to try to have a Cath-Lab established in Mildura and Ali (Cupper) has given me her support and is going to raise the matter with the Victorian Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, and hopefully arrange a meeting when she visits Mildura.

“It will be an opportunity to tell her our story, and have her consider having that service here in Mildura, given that we are so far away from Melbourne.”

Katrina said that raising money is just one part of the equation.

“We need to have all of the relevant authorities on board to make that a reality,” she said. “So far on my ‘Everyday Hero’ page I have raised over $3500, and the Heart Foundation, through the Melbourne Marathon Festival, is aiming to raise $50,000.”

Katrina said adjusting to life without Scott had been difficult.   

“I don’t know how to describe it – my life is forever changed. My two boy’s lives are also forever changed,” she said. “But we try to live with love and gratitude for what we had, and to not let his death be in vain.

“We don’t want anyone else to endure what we are experiencing, and that’s probably the driving force for me, and my love for the community that I live in.”

The Heart Foundation can help you know your risk factors. For more information visit www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks.

If you would like to offer any support to Katrina’s campaign, or how you can donate funds to the cause, email katrinaumback@hotmail.com.