Medical Condition: Cardiac arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation
Medical Therapy: Pacemaker
Tanya was born with a hole in her heart and a heart murmur. She had open heart surgery when she was nine years old. At 21, she awoke to severe chest pain, her heart racing at two hundred beats per minute. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with a number of heart arrhythmias, and received a pacemaker. In 2011, frustrated with the lack of cardiac patient support groups in Australia, and at a loss for how she would spend the rest of her life, Tanya founded hearts4heart to fill both voids.
“I was born with a hole in my heart and a heart murmur. I had quarterly visits to the cardiologist up until the age of nine, when I had open heart surgery. At 21, I had my first ‘episode.’ I awoke feeling as though I was having a heart attack. I was vomiting. My heart was racing at two hundred beats per minute. I was experiencing chest pain and felt as if I was going to faint. Somehow I made it to my doctor for emergency surgery. This was followed by 12 more years of heart-related incidents, with my heart getting progressively worse.
“I have a complicated heart that consists of a number of arrhythmia conditions that include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, tachycardia (fast heartbeat) and bradycardia (slow heartbeat). Eventually, I received a pacemaker that helps me manage my condition.
“After surgery, I was feeling at a loss as to where my life was headed and I had no idea what my future held. I didn’t know how much longer I would even be here. I had very big decisions to make about my heart health and looked for information and support.
“I soon realized there wasn’t anything available in Australia. I had searched for a support group or forum, but I couldn’t find anyone to talk to who was in the same situation as me. The more research I did, the more I was amazed that although heart disease is the biggest killer and is the biggest cost to our health system, there was still no support and little information available.
“I didn’t want to sit around and feel helpless. So I decided to do something about it. In 2011, I took leave from work, and using my own money I founded hearts4heart…a website for likeminded people with cardiac health issues to contact one another, offer support and share information. My pacemaker gives me security. I am able to resume my physical activities and live normally with confidence.”
“Never give up on your dreams, no matter your circumstance.”
“As the saying goes, she stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails. Through my experience I have a deep understanding of the many challenges that many patients face living with a chronic condition. It has given me the physical strength to continue and build upon my passion to help others who are suffering, educate the general public for early detection and ensure that patients have timely diagnoses and access to treatment.”
hearts4heart provides targeted educational programs, resources and services to assist patients, medical professionals and the public for a better understanding of heart disease. By raising awareness and advancing policy, the organization works toward early detection of heart disease, prevention and offers support and holistic management strategies. Tanya is founder, CEO and lone full-time employee.