Rob Hoani had a heart attack on the rugby field two decades ago when he was only 46 years of age.
- A Gold Coast man was heading towards a heart transplant but needed to lose weight to be eligible
- He embraced a rehab program and lost 20kg over several months, delaying the need for the major surgery
- The Heart Foundation estimates 110,000 people in Australia live with heart failure
It marked a dramatic start to a downward health spiral.
He stacked on the kilos, had dangerous heart rhythms which caused him to collapse, and had a poor quality of life.
“I was heading towards a heart transplant.”
Prince Charles Hospital cardiologist Alexander Dashwood said Mr Hoani needed to lose weight and improve his fitness before becoming eligible for the heart transplant list.
“From the metrics of quality of life and rhythms, he would have been a candidate we would like to take forward to see if he would be a transplant candidate,” Dr Dashwood said.
“But unfortunately he was overweight, so we have to sort those things out first.”
Mr Hoani started exercising and transformed his lifestyle, losing 20 kilograms and delaying the need for a transplant.
The incredible ‘shrinking man’
Mr Hoani was referred to a heart failure rehab program at Robina where he worked with a team of physiotherapists, dieticians, psychologists, and nurses.
Senior physiotherapist Menaka Louis said Mr Hoani embraced the program, so much so health staff started referring to him as “the shrinking man”.
“It makes it all worthwhile when you see patients like Rob who embrace the guidance that you give them,” Ms Louis said.
“If we can delay the need for surgery it is a huge achievement for the patient.”
After his scare on the footy field 20 years ago, Mr Hoani slowed down and cut out physical activity to try to preserve his energy and protect his heart.
“The years proceeding that, it was far too easy to ‘take things easy’ to look after my heart. So I thought,” he said.
“You’re always looking for a chair to sit down in.”
Now he exercises several times a week.
“Since the weight loss, the defibrillator has not gone off once and there’s been no pain from the hernia,” Mr Hoani said.
Not in the clear
Dr Dashwood said the medical team at Prince Charles Hospital was in regular contact with Mr Hoani.
“In patients like Rob that have really bad hearts, just because he’s okay now doesn’t mean he won’t progress in the future to a transplant,” Dr Dashwood said.
“If you improve people’s underlying fitness such as Mr Hoani, they lose weight, we know that in itself it reduces stress on the body and can hopefully reduce the amount of times that these bad rhythms occur.”
The Heart Foundation estimates 110,000 people in Australia live with heart failure, with one person dying from heart failure every three hours.
Dr Dashwood said it was an increasing global issue.
“Mainly because our heart therapies are keeping people alive after heart attacks,” he said.
“One of the major issues we have in Queensland is once you have heart failure is preventing re-admission rates.”
On the Gold Coast, the number of heart failure cases was 5 to 15 per cent higher than the national average.
“That’s because there tends to be more of an ageing population on the Gold Coast,” Ms Louis said.