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Sue’s Story – Cardiomyopathy

My life had slotted into three very neat stages. Stage 1 was my first twenty years when I lived at home, followed by the next almost fifty years my late husband and I were together. After he died, I saw Stage 3 as my time as a single older woman living life to the fullest.

All this dramatically changed on Tuesday 22 November 2022, in the blink of an eye when the unexpected Stage 4 became the single older women with a chronic disease.
I was 74 years old, strong, fit and healthy. I attended the gym at least three days a week, worked out with a personal trainer twice a week and walked most days including a usually challenging 12 to 15km walk each Monday with my local U3A.

On Monday we had a beautiful 15km walk around Sydney Harbour – enough hills and bush tracks to get the heart racing. Feeling good, I had a 40 minute workout at the gym early Tuesday morning and then drove 125 km to the Southern Highlands to have lunch with a friend. A delightful day.
Just five minutes from the lunch venue I suddenly realised I was driving on the wrong side of the road heading for the guard rail and the drop to the creek below. There was a man standing in the middle of the road waving his arms.

He called an ambulance and I had 4 hours in Bowral Hospital undergoing a barrage of tests. Nothing abnormal showed up and the doctor said it was classified as a ‘faint’ I had experienced in the car. Instructions – don’t drive until I had seen my GP. This turned out to be a life saver.

My daughter was driving from Sydney to pick me up and was thankfully delayed as she had cooked a baked leg of lamb (that I had bought for her) and served the family dinner. Ten minutes before she arrived I went into cardiac arrest in the waiting room of the hospital That sure was a better option than hurtling along the motorway at 110kph.

It was touch and go and the doctor said it was only that I was fit, strong and healthy that they were able to bring me back.

A lights and siren 85 km trip by ambulance to Liverpool Hospital (the closest trauma hospital) and two more cardiac arrests. The ribs sure took a hammering.

Five days in the ICU, multiple tests, changing diagnosis and plenty of head scratching. It was dilated cardiomyopathy and ventricular tachycardia. From the beginning I was told it would be the medication doing all the heavy lifting. That was certainly a challenge getting the right tablets, right strength and right quantity.
Seven days after moving to the cardiac ward I had an implanted medical device – defibrillator inserted. Six hours later the heart decided to go into cardiac arrest again – just to test the new device. It came through with flying colours.

Further playing with the medication and I was ready to leave hospital four days later – to start Stage 4.

When I asked the Cardiologist how long it would take for me to feel “normal” again he said that initially they struggled to keep me alive, then they struggled to get me out of hospital by Christmas. It would take time. That was confronting as I felt good – except when I moved with the broken ribs or tried to do anything. I’m not known for my patience!!

The previous July I had booked a six-week holiday in Europe to leave on the 28 April 2023. I was determined to go, and this was my motivation for some serious recovery and rehabilitation.

Now that’s another story …………………

Sue Gorst

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