MY mother has never really been the dramatic type, but you couldn’t fault her theatrical timing last Tuesday when she had a heart attack right bang on the start of National Heart Week.

How very fashionable of her, to be so on trend! How au courant! And what a marketing coup — in terms of brand integration she really couldn’t have done much better.

The only problem was she didn’t know it was a heart attack.

Having just enjoyed her morning toast and coffee, she thought the tightening in her chest, breathlessness and sudden urge to vomit was an aggressive case of indigestion.

Turns out that’s what she’d also thought of two similar episodes she’d had back in March. She hadn’t told anyone about those, having written them off as nothing more than weird bouts of nausea.

But when Tuesday’s “indigestion” failed to dissipate after an hour, she finally called her GP and then called me.

“It’s probably nothing,” she said. “But can you drive me in?”

An hour later she was in an ambulance on the way to the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s emergency department with a suspected coronary thrombosis, and my sister and I were plunged into the angst and sickening worry you only know when a loved one is suddenly put in peril.

One day mum was fine, the next she was in a ward doing an impression of a pin cushion — and all this just a few days out from Mother’s Day. (I told you her dramatic timing was excellent.)

But that’s the funny thing about life — most of the time everything’s fine, until one day it isn’t.

My mum, Ruth Starke, is a pretty healthy woman in her 60s. She rides her bike regularly, goes to the gym and walks her dog twice a day. She eats well. She doesn’t smoke. There is no significant history of heart disease in our family. There was no reason to think she would ever have a heart attack.

But that’s probably what the other 143 Australians who had a heart attack last Tuesday thought, too. Yes, 144 Australians have a heart attack every day — that’s one every 10 minutes. And every day, 26 of those don’t make it.

I wasn’t aware of these grim statistics when mum was lying in the RAH waiting for her angiogram, or I might not have been so calm. But fortunately she was given the all clear on Friday, discharged on Saturday, and made it home in time for the most reflective Mother’s Day lunch our family has ever had.

Mum’s story thankfully had a happy ending (as a conclusion to National Heart Week it really couldn’t have gone much better) but it should serve as a reminder to be mindful of the dangers of heart disease, which kills more people in Australia each year than absolutely anything else.

It’s also the single biggest killer of Australian women, which is why the Heart Foundation’s “Go Red for Women” day on June 11 is so important to support.

Our supermarket shelves and clothing shops might be flooded with pink items to raise funds for breast cancer, but the reality is heart disease kills three times as many Australian women, and gets far less attention.

So on June 11 wear something red and make a donation to the Heart Foundation, or take a selfie and put it on social media with the hashtag #WeWillBeRed to help draw attention to this critical health issue.

Heart disease takes one Australian woman’s life every hour of every day. Thankfully my mum wasn’t one of them.


First published in The Advertiser, May 14, 2015. Click here to read original article.