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Geoff Lester standing with bare chest, hand on heart, heart surgery scar

Meet Dr Geoff Lester: “I’ve been a patient longer than I’ve been a doctor.”

Heart stories


Meet Dr Geoff Lester: “I’ve been a patient longer than I’ve been a doctor.”

Geoff Lester was just 24 when he underwent the first of four open heart surgeries. He now studies medicine in hopes to help other patients.

Geoff Lester won’t ever forget that night in December 2009. At just 24 years of age, his world was about to change forever.

It all started while refereeing a game of social basketball.

“I started getting a bit of dizziness and just generally feeling unwell. I felt a tingling in my left arm and thought, that’s weird, that’s very strange,” says Geoff.

Geoff wouldn’t know it until several hours later, but these were the first symptoms of an aortic dissection (a tear in the wall of the aorta - the major blood vessel supplying blood from the heart to the rest of the body).

“An hour passed, and I hadn’t really got any better, so I went to the hospital,” says Geoff.

While waiting in the hospital’s emergency department, an incredible wave of chest pain washed over him. “They hit the red emergency button, and a doctor took me straight through for a CT scan.”

The results of the scan confirmed the diagnosis. An aortic dissection is a medical emergency where the blood flowing through the aorta starts to seep through a tear in the artery wall. The aorta wall splits, which can lead to devastating complications like organ damage, stroke and often death.

Geoff was rushed into the operating theatre for emergency surgery that night. “On my way into surgery, the doctors told me to call my family. They said to me, ‘this is high-risk surgery, you may not make it,’” recalls Geoff.

Thankfully, Geoff survived the urgent operation. While recovering in hospital, he had a realisation that would change the course of his life forever. “I made the decision to turn my economics career on its head and commit to finding out what happened to me and to prevent it from happening to other people,” says Geoff.

He put that plan into action right away, going on to complete his medical degree in 2015 - a decision which led him to meet his now-wife and fellow doctor, Trish.

Since that night in 2009, Geoff went on to need two more emergency open-heart surgeries and has had two strokes (as a complication of his heart condition). We last spoke with Geoff in 2020, and since then he has had a fourth open-heart surgery at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

“I’ve otherwise remained healthy, with the support of my wife Trish and my family, ensuring I remain as fit as I can for any potential future health hiccups that may come my way,” says Geoff.

Incidentally, the Alfred Hospital is where Geoff is now working as he completes his specialty medical training.

“I’ve side stepped from cardiology to general internal medicine training,” explains Geoff. “This will allow me to complete subspecialty training in vascular medicine – so I will be one of Victoria’s only specialist cardiovascular and general physicians.”

For Geoff, his own personal experience of heart disease has had a huge impact on the way he now cares for his patients.

Geoff Lester standing with bare chest, hand on heart, heart surgery scar

I’ve been a patient longer than a doctor, but I’m lucky enough to see that patients resonate with what I’m saying in a much more profound way,” says Geoff. “When I tell patients I understand what they’re going through, they know I mean it.”

Dr Geoffrey Lester

Today, Geoff is a proud Heart Foundation ambassador, and is sharing his story to support other Australians living with a heart condition.

“The support that the Heart Foundation has provided to me, my colleagues through grants to engage in their own research, and to my patients, has been invaluable,” explains Geoff. “I feel so privileged to be able to support and fundraise for the charity in this unique way.”

Dr Geoffrey Lester is a proud ambassador for our 2024 Hand on Heart brand campaign. By pushing boundaries, by exploring new treatments, and by continuing to inform, we can help save lives and improve the lives of people touched by heart disease, like Geoff. With the generous support of everyday Australians, together we can make heart disease history.

Donate today to help fund life-saving research.

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Last updated16 May 2024