Jo’s story

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Joanne had five stents inserted into her heart in her early forties. Fifteen years later she had a triple bypass. Jo talks about her recovery journey, learning to look after herself and why she no longer makes excuses when it comes to her health.

I'm Joanne and I have genetic high cholesterol. I've got five stents and three years ago I had a triple bypass.

I was a smoker the worst thing you could do when you've got a history of heart disease or you have heart disease. My father had his first heart attack of 52, I was in my 40s.

I found walking upstairs kind of got a little bit breathless. I also was getting pains on my left shoulder radiating down my arm. I thought it was best I go and see a Doctor then a cardiologist. they referred me to a hospital to have an angiogram which showed I had a ninety-seven percent blockage in my left circumflex artery, which is the artery at the back of the heart. Living in a country area I was told “it's only a small artery and it's inaccessible – we’ll treat you with medication.” But I didn't like the sound of that. I was in my early 40s and I thought there's got to be more than this. So I asked my GP to refer me down to Sydney down to the Victor Chang clinic.

I was on my treadmill every afternoon and I was getting a burning sensation in the middle of my chest and I thought “oh I've got trouble with my lungs.” It then got to a stage where I found out every artery in my heart was blocked. I knew I’d better do something about it so the cigarettes went out the window.

The one thing about my family that's concerning for me is the genetic condition. They have been made aware of what can happen because they've seen their mum go through what I have. I’ve realised that I'm not infallible. I realise I've got to look after myself if I want to live this life. I’ve got beautiful children and grandchildren, a loving husband.

Women do have heart disease. It's not just an old man thing. Too many people ignore their symptoms. You know, you always make excuses. Don't make excuses. Do something about it because it may be too late. I'm just very’ very damn lucky it wasn't too late for me.

Learn how cardiac rehabilitation can help you, or find a cardiac rehabilitation service online. You can also call the Heart Foundation Helpline 13 11 12 for help finding a service near you.