I am
Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking.

Gerry knows how lucky he is. If his heart attack had happened just two days earlier, on the flight home from London, he might not have survived. Now he’s eating better, exercising more and telling everyone he knows to have a heart health check. 

Gerry Cappeluti, 55, lives in Perth and until recently was a bio-security adviser and travelled extensively for work. He and his wife Anna – who he calls “his rock” – have two adult children, Matthew and Nicole.  

Gerry’s heart story 

“My son Matthew, who’s 26, and I love sport and got into Formula One car racing after watching it on television. In 2017 we started saving for a holiday of a lifetime to Europe, with the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo the highlight. 

The trip was a year in the planning, and it didn’t disappoint. I’d never done anything like it before and we weren’t going to waste a minute. I was walking 10 to 15 kilometres a day exploring big cities like London, so it was no huge surprise that by the end of every day I was exhausted. 

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. But this fatigue was on another level. We hired a car and some days Matthew was worried that I’d fall asleep at the wheel I was so tired. 

And the food! I was grabbing snacks on the go, trying all sorts of exotic dishes and loading up on French pastries. We visited uncles and aunties in the Italian countryside, eating and drinking and seeing a side of the country that many never experience. So again, it was hardly surprising that I was getting this tight feeling in my chest that I put down to indigestion from over-indulging. 

Maybe I should have read more into the warning I got from a pharmacist in London when I was buying indigestion medication: he told me I should see a doctor about my ongoing ‘indigestion’ when I got back to Perth. I was fit, I was only 54 and I had recently started on medication for elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, more of a precaution, I thought, than because of a serious problem. It didn’t occur to me for a second that there could be something wrong with my heart. 
You see someone in a movie having a heart attack and they grab their chest ... well, it was nothing like that.
Watching Australian Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo win the Monaco Grand Prix was awesome, one of the best sporting moments in our lives. We both felt an incredible mix of joy and pride in hearing the national anthem as he cracked open the champagne on the podium. 

I’d been back in Perth for a couple of days and went to visit my sister for dinner and to tell her about the trip. We were talking and laughing when the strangest thing happened – the fingers on my left hand locked. It was as if they were frozen. It was so odd, we even joked about it.  

But then I felt a cramp and sudden heavy ache in my left arm, and it wasn’t funny anymore. Both my wife Anna and my sister thought it might be a heart attack and insisted on calling an ambulance. 

At the hospital, my ECG was fine, but my blood test was another story. Someone told me "You are having a heart attack. Now". I was in absolute shock. I couldn’t believe it. You see someone in a movie having a heart attack and they grab their chest ... well, it was nothing like that. I kept asking, “Are you sure?” I was in denial all the way. 

They rushed me into the Cath lab and inserted a stent to open my artery: my LAD (left anterior descending artery) had an 85 per cent blockage, and another a 50 per cent blockage that they decided to monitor for now. The stent probably saved my life. 

Now, of course, I look back and see all the classic signs. The fatigue. Some chest pain. A feeling like indigestion, but that wasn’t really indigestion. I was too stubborn to see the signs, but they were all there. I was actually having heart problems all the time we were overseas but was determined not to spoil it for my son. Yes, I know. It was stupid of me. 

After I got out of hospital, I started exercising slowly, walking our Jack Russells Pepe and Rocky, building up to much more exercise. I’m taking it seriously, hitting the treadmill four or five times a week for about 45 minutes. 

My wife and kids were fantastic, helping me out and encouraging me: “don’t eat this”, “do that”. I’ve lost some weight and although I thought my diet was pretty good before my heart attack, it’s even better now with more veg and fish. 
It’s my mission to educate all my family and friends about heart disease.
One friend I spoke to – like me, he was pretty fit, ate well and was only 56 – saw a doctor and he was quite shocked to find himself in hospital, assessed as a high risk of having a heart attack and in need of medication.  

Having a heart attack really puts things into perspective and I tell everyone: go and get the tests done.” 

Gerry’s one piece of advice  

Make sure you have a full medical check-up with your GP and make yourself aware of heart disease and heart attack symptoms (fatigue, chest pain, sweating). There could be nothing worse than having heart trouble in a foreign country away from your loved ones. 


Discover more heart stories  

You might also be interested in

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

The Heart Foundation has designed a series of emails to help people who've had heart attacks (and their loved ones) through their recovery....

Heart health information in your language

Heart health information in your language

A selection of heart health information brochures in a range languages...

Heart stories

Heart stories

Heart stories

Stories of hope from Australian men and women fighting heart disease....

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Explore our guide for driving and heart attack recovery. ...

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Alicia Philipatos was three days old when her heart condition was diagnosed...

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Got a question about your heart?...

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

And the heartache lasts a lifetime. But you can help the Heart Foundation fund life-saving research to keep more families together....

Research Directory

Research Directory

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

Ask the experts: caring for people with CVD during COVID-19...

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts

Absolute CVD risk charts provide a visual tool to calculate CVD risk for use in practice in Australia....

Primary aldosteronism – a neglected cause of high blood pressure

Primary aldosteronism – a neglected cause of high blood pressure

Primary aldosteronism – a neglected cause of high blood pressure

Nutrition Resources for Patients

Nutrition Resources for Patients

Nutrition Resources for Patients

Resources to help people follow a heart healthy eating pattern in their daily lives. ...

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Got a question about your heart?...

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

Are you within a healthy weight range for your height?...

Heart Foundation welcomes funding pledge to support walking program in Tasmania

Heart Foundation welcomes funding pledge to support walking program in Tasmania

Heart Foundation welcomes funding pledge to support walking program in Tasmania

Moroccan chickpea tagine

Moroccan chickpea tagine

25-40 minutes
Serves 4

Learning to listen to your heart

Learning to listen to your heart

Learning to listen to your heart

Guest blog by Heart Foundation of Australia Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John G Kelly AM...

Order patient resources online

Order patient resources online

Search and order from our range of printed patient resources online. ...

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Discover more about our various funding programs, requirements, and application dates now....

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is proven to keep you out of hospital and reduce your risk of death from heart conditions....

Fruit and nut muesli

Fruit and nut muesli

Fruit and nut muesli

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

How your waist measurement contributes to your heart health...

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Find heart healthy seafood recipes...

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Taking your medicines

Taking your medicines

Taking your medicines

There are many medicines that treat heart attack, angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart conditions....

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia is a fault in the heart’s electrical system, which affects your heart’s pumping rhythm....

For professionals: Online education and training

For professionals: Online education and training

Online courses for health professionals focused on improving cardiovascular care. ...

Clinical resources: Coronary heart disease and mental health

Clinical resources: Coronary heart disease and mental health

The prevalence of depression is high in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD)....

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Are you at risk of heart disease? 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Are you at risk of heart disease? 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Are you at risk of heart disease? 

Preventing heart disease starts with knowing your risk factors and making changes to live a healthier life. ...

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Find heart healthy dessert recipes....

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

40-50 minutes
Serves 6

What is angina?

What is angina?

What is angina?

Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort that’s a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD)....

Heart Bypass Surgery

Heart Bypass Surgery

Coronary bypass surgery is a common procedure that can dramatically improve the health of your heart. ...