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. ...

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Information on how air pollution, heatwaves and bushfires can impact heart health, and what you can do to look after yourself. ...

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Nutrition Resources for Practice and Patient Care

Australian Virtual Running Experience

Australian Virtual Running Experience

Australian Virtual Running Experience

If you’re looking for an opportunity to help support the Heart Foundation, we have just the thing for you!...

Heart Foundation supports Wollongong City Council’s draft 10-year cycling strategy

Heart Foundation supports Wollongong City Council’s draft 10-year cycling strategy

Heart Foundation supports Wollongong City Council’s draft 10-year cycling strategy

Media Release - 30 June 2020 ...

Tahini tofu dressing

Tahini tofu dressing

Tahini tofu dressing

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

A multidisciplinary panel of experts discuss the practical application of absolute CVD risk assessment through Heart Health Checks....

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Your role as a carer for a heart attack patient is an important one – explore some useful things to know....

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

With immediate help a cardiac arrest can be survived. Learn how to save a life....

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Many different thoughts may go through your head after a heart attack and you may be presented with complicated medical info. Know where to get support. ...

Q&A with Dr Louise Segan

Q&A with Dr Louise Segan

Q&A with Dr Louise Segan

Optimal treatment of atrial fibrillation in people with cardiac dysfunction and scarring of the heart ...

Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson

Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson

Q&A with Dr Caleb Ferguson

An education program to promote self-care for people living with atrial fibrillation (INFORM-AF)...

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Join the fight against heart disease....

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Clinical information for diagnosis and management of hypertension....

State based advocacy

State based advocacy

State based advocacy activity supporting local communities...

Our supporters 

Our supporters 

Our supporters 

Working together to save Australian hearts...

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Seafood recipes

Find heart healthy seafood recipes...

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Find heart healthy Italian recipes....

Lamb souvlaki wraps

Lamb souvlaki wraps

Lamb souvlaki wraps

5 minutes
Serves 4

Sweet potato breakfast hash

Sweet potato breakfast hash

Sweet potato breakfast hash

15 minutes
Serves 2

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Information to help you adjust to what could be the 'new normal'...

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Get the facts on quitting and how it can help you recover. ...

Mexican vegetarian pizza

Mexican vegetarian pizza

Mexican vegetarian pizza

10 minutes
Serves 2 (1 pizza per serve)

Types of physical activity

Types of physical activity

Types of physical activity

Nine out of 10 Australians could reduce the risk of heart disease by walking as little as 15 minutes more each day....

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Finding time for physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart...

10 steps to protect your heart health

10 steps to protect your heart health

10 steps to protect your heart health

Ready to help your heart keep on beating? Here are 10 important ways to reduce your risk of heart disease for a healthier life.  ...

Absolute CVD risk clinical guidelines

Absolute CVD risk clinical guidelines

The Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk (CVD) Guidelines helps healthcare professionals identify, prevent and manage a person's risk of developing CVD. ...

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Search our lunch recipe ideas...