I am
Show me:
Show me:
Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Cardiac rehabilitation was a turning point for Kylie and essential to her heart failure recovery.

It should’ve been a fun night out at a Guns N’ Roses concert. Instead, Kylie Sardinha found herself in the arena’s medic tent, wracked with pain and fading in and out of consciousness.

Life was good for Queenslander Kylie Sardinha. She had a terrific job, a healthy lifestyle, a loving husband and three children – the youngest of whom had just finished high school. Then a heart attack struck. 

Kylie’s heart story 

On a hot night in February 2017, my husband and I were lining up for a Guns N’ Roses concert in Brisbane. I had bought him tickets for the mosh pit as a 40th birthday present. After months of waiting, the big night had finally arrived. 

Life was good for us. We divided our time between Brisbane and our hometown of Rockhampton. I had a terrific job that allowed me to work from home. The youngest of my three kids had just finished high school and was about to start university.

If you’d asked me about my greatest health concerns at the age of 48, I might have listed all the usual ‘female’ things, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and menopause. I certainly wouldn’t have nominated a heart attack.

In my mind, a heart attack was something that happened to older people and probably mainly men.
I always thought that the typical candidate was someone who smoked, sported a beer belly, and had high blood pressure. I was a fit, young, non-smoking woman in my forties. A heart attack couldn’t happen to me – right?
I could not have been more wrong. 

As we queued for the concert, out of absolutely nowhere I felt an overwhelming pressure on my chest. It was so sudden and so intense; as if the Incredible Hulk had put his hand on the middle of my sternum and pushed me against a wall and kept pushing.

I also started feeling hot, clammy, light-headed and nauseous. This was accompanied by a vice-like grip on my biceps, along with pins and needles in my hands.

I told my husband I didn’t feel right, that something was very wrong. At first, he thought maybe it was a normal reaction to the sweltering heat that evening.

But as the gates to the concert opened and people started streaming in, I began to feel excruciating pain. It was the worst pain I’ve had in my life, and it was everywhere! Luckily, I got to an usher and asked for help – just before I collapsed to the ground in agony, drifting in and out of consciousness.

I was rushed to the arena’s medic tent, where the staff gave me a strong painkiller and an aspirin tablet, and performed an ECG. Unbeknown to me, this indicated I may have had a heart attack. I was told I’d need to go to a hospital for more tests.

Without knowing what the doctor suspected, this seemed like overkill to me. By now the pain medication was taking effect and I felt fine, apart from being hot, hungry and cranky about missing the concert. I could walk to the ambulance, and even the emergency-room doctor initially thought I may have had a heat-related event or an anxiety attack.

A blood test told the real story. My level of troponin – a protein in the blood that’s used to measure damage to heart muscle – was more than a hundred times higher than normal. The doctor pulled the curtain around my bed and said, “I can’t believe I am about to say this, but you’ve had a major heart attack.” 

The next day, I had an angiogram. The results were shocking; in total, I had six blockages in my coronary arteries. The worst, a 90 per cent blockage in my left anterior descending (LAD) artery, required a stent.

Four days later, I was discharged from hospital and returned to our unit in Brisbane, but I was a long way from being back to normal health. That first day at home, I found myself sitting and crying on the floor of the shower, unable to muster the strength to do something as simple as wash my own hair. Everything was so hard.

I was given many booklets when I left the hospital. Two were from the Heart Foundation: ‘My heart, my life’ and ‘Living well with chronic heart failure’.  The latter scared me most: here I was, just 48 years old and all of a sudden I have heart failure! I was determined to do exactly what I was told to make sure I gave myself the best chance of making a good recovery.

After a week of resting in Brisbane, I was allowed to return to Rockhampton. There, I was referred to the care of a cardiac nurse, who set up my participation in a rehabilitation program. I cannot stress enough how crucial this part of the healing process was for me.

I started with rehabilitation specifically for heart failure. I needed this because immediately after my heart attack, my heart was not working as it should due to the amount of damaged muscle.

The heart’s ability to pump blood around the body is measured by an ‘ejection fraction’. This is expressed as a percentage and refers to the amount of blood being expelled from the left ventricle – the heart’s main pumping chamber – with each contraction.

A normal left-ventricle ejection fraction is over 50 per cent; straight out of hospital, mine was around 30 per cent. Through rehabilitation sessions – twice a week over 12 weeks – and  medication for heart failure, my ejection fraction gradually increased to somewhere in the mid 40s.

Next, I attended cardiac rehabilitation – also twice-weekly for 12 weeks.

Typically, cardiac rehabilitation includes information sessions about things like quitting smoking, good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight, as well as managing medications and gentle exercise.

I already have a very healthy lifestyle, so for me, the focus was working with an exercise physiologist to develop a plan that would help me regain my strength. This involved a combination of cardio and resistance-based weight training.
Cardiac rehabilitation gave me something I hadn’t anticipated. It really lifted my spirts through meeting people who had been through a similar ordeal. My friends and family loved and supported me in whatever ways they could; however, they could not truly understand what I’d experienced. At cardiac rehabilitation, I met people who did – and it was a real turning point for me. 
Looking back, I don’t feel I had any warning signs of a heart problem. My family history was a significant factor – my biological father had two heart attacks in his forties, but I didn't find that out until after my own near miss.

Today, I’m doing well. I’m one of the extremely lucky cases who has recovered to the point where I no longer need to see a cardiologist regularly. I put this down to getting quick treatment (within 15 minutes of my symptoms appearing), and participating fully in my rehab sessions. I also continue to have a very healthy lifestyle, eating well and walking up to 10 kilometres a day. 

If there’s one piece of advice I could give others, it’s to see your doctor and find out about your heart-disease risk factors. Do it for the ones you love.

I have a new motto in life: “It’s not about missing the milestones, it’s about being missed at those milestones!” My husband and kids are thankful every day that I’m here to celebrate even the smallest of things with them. Family is everything.

Kylie’s one piece of advice 

See your doctor and find out about your heart disease risk factors. Do it for the ones you love.

Photo credit: Steve Vit 

Discover more heart stories

WHAT NEXT?

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. ...

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

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

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels....

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

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. ...

Understanding your heart age

Understanding your heart age

Understanding your heart age

Try our Heart Age Calculator to understand what contributes to your risk of heart disease...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

Why are you playing this game? It’s putting your heart at risk.

The game is “hide and seek”. You play it without even realising. The shock is that when you play this game, you could be placing your heart health at risk....

Quit smoking action plan

Quit smoking action plan

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Understand blood pressure and how it can impact your heart health....

Sodium and salt converter

Sodium and salt converter

Convert the sodium listed on food products into grams of salt or vice versa. ...

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions. ...

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes is an ongoing health condition where your body’s usual ways of controlling your blood sugar, or blood glucose levels, don’t work properly. ...

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

A family history of heart disease could mean you are at greater risk....

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

Find out what a healthy body weight is and the steps you can take to achieve it. ...

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

If you're over 45, or over 30 if you're of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, you should book your Heart Health Check today...

Heart health information in your language

Heart health information in your language

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

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

In Australia, 90% of women have one risk factor for heart disease, and 50% have two or more. ...

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amounts and this can cause health problems....

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Understand how smoking can impact your heart health. ...

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...

Stay informed about COVID-19

Stay informed about COVID-19

Stay informed about COVID-19

If you have heart disease, you are more vulnerable to severe complications....

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

My Heart, My Life - Managing your heart health

My Heart, My Life - Managing your heart health

My Heart, My Life - Managing your heart health

This booklet is for those diagnosed with heart disease and their support people....

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

We are Australia’s biggest non-government funder of world-class research into heart health. Learn more about our high impact research. ...

Understanding your heart age

Understanding your heart age

Understanding your heart age

Try our Heart Age Calculator to understand what contributes to your risk of heart disease...

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Cook with Heart

Cook with Heart

Cook with Heart

Join the Cook with Heart Challenge as seen on Channel 7...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Our programs and initiatives

Our programs and initiatives

Our programs and initiatives

The Heart Foundation delivers innovative, evidence-based programs and initiatives to support and prevent heart disease in Australia...

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Eating healthy foods can help you recover and reduce your risk of more heart problems. ...

Donate to the Heart Foundation

Donate to the Heart Foundation

Donate to the Heart Foundation

Every dollar that you donate will help fund research, support and programs that help save lives....

Action Plans

Action Plans

Action Plans

Recovery is a long journey, so having a plan makes a huge difference. Using an action plan gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your lifestyle....

MyMarathon Insights Survey 2020 Terms and Conditions

MyMarathon Insights Survey 2020 Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions...

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

Claude Lam, Open heart surgery survivor...

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Salad recipes

Salad recipes

Salad recipes

Search through our tasty salad recipes...

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition. ...

Order patient resources online

Order patient resources online

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

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Improving the design of our cities, towns, streets and buildings makes it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

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....

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

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

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program

The program works with local communities to improve heart healthcare in Pilbara communities...

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) clinical resources

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving is a simple and tax effective way for employees to make regular donations to a cause they care about. ...

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. ...

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Search through our vegetarian recipes...

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)....

Philanthropic investments

Philanthropic investments

Philanthropic investments

Making philanthropic investments through the Heart Foundation can transform Australians’ health. ...

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Find heart healthy baking recipes ...