Women’s Heart Health | Heart disease claims lives of more women than breast cancer | Sunday Night


ANGELA: Heart and lung surgeon
Dr Nikki Stamp is preparing to perform
life-saving surgery. See you, my dear. Her patient is 50-year-old
mother of two, Anya Monka. Like tens of thousands
of middle-aged Australian women, Anya’s heart is a ticking time bomb. Starting. How many Australian women
are dying from heart disease? Every day 22 women lose their lives
from heart disease. And that’s a lot of women. Heart disease is the leading
cause of death in most developed nations,
for women. Is it true that more men
have heart attacks but that more women will
die from a heart attack? Absolutely. So, if a man has a heart attack, he is much more likely to
survive that event. Heart disease is the silent killer
of Australian women and many women just don’t see it
coming until it’s too late. (BIRDS CHIRP) I was really shocked when
the doctors told me what my heart was doing. And it’s hard because you can’t see
the inside of your body. We all look OK on the outside
but what’s happening on the inside? Heart disease doesn’t discriminate. No woman is immune,
even a golden girl of the pool. COMMENTATOR: Curry, I think
she’s in front. Yes, it’s Curry! After winning a swag of medals, Lisa Curry went on to conquer the physically demanding sport
of outrigging. Then out of the blue she felt her
body starting to falter. I was out walking with
my best friend who just happens to be a paramedic, and I just didn’t feel right. And I said to her, “I feel like I’ve got a 20kg weight
just sitting on my chest.” And to any paramedic
that’s alarm bells. So she took me
straight off to hospital. And that’s when they started doing
all the tests. And lucky, you know, because if I didn’t go for that walk
that afternoon, if I didn’t have her around me
in my life, if I didn’t have that feeling, if I didn’t go to the hospital, I may not be here today. Lisa was lucky. At the hospital she was rushed
straight to Intensive Care. Doctors found she was having 22,000
irregular heartbeats in a day. I was really shocked when
the doctors told me what my heart was doing. I just thought, hang on a minute,
I’m an Olympic athlete. Why would I have a heart problem? As a precautionary measure Lisa was
fitted with a defibrillator. You can just see it under her skin. It’s a pacemaker
and a defibrillator in one. So if my heart goes below 60 or if it starts getting erratic, the pacemaker will kick in and get
the rhythm back to normal. It’s about the size of a matchbox. It’s titanium. They reckon it’ll take a bullet. Hopefully I’ll never have to
trial that one out. But there are wires that go from
this across, through the clavicle and the sternum, and then gets
screwed into the heart muscle. I don’t even remember it
half the time until it starts beeping
and I need a battery change. Which is about every seven years. But it is a reminder. It’s a reminder that life is short. That’s it, Kim,
just at your own pace. For Lisa, training is no longer
about the medals or the mirror. It’s about a healthy heart
and living longer. Fifteen seconds. Let’s see if we can
go under two minutes. Come on, Sally. Come on. You should make the most
of every day and do what’s right for your body, and be here for your grandkids. A lot of people don’t even make
40 or 50 or 60. And that’s serious. And we have to look at
what we can do. Six more seconds. One thing we can do according
to Dr Nikki Stamp is to learn to recognise
the warning signs. Very few women have traditional
chest pain. A lot of them will complain
of heaviness or aches and pains somewhere else
like the neck, the arm, the jaw. Tiredness. Lethargy. Things like feeling dizzy. So whenever I explain
these to a group of women they all roll their eyes at me
and say, “Yeah, we’re always tired.” It kind of gets swept aside because we think that there’s
nothing to worry about and we don’t go looking further, when sometimes that’s exactly
what we should do. What we should all do… What I’ll get you to do
is just breathe normally. No excuses. We’re going to do an exercise
stress test for you. We’re going to monitor
your blood pressure and I’m afraid to say we’re
going to make you run. When you exercise,
your heart needs more oxygen. If there’s a problem, my heart won’t
be able to keep up with demand. The machine will pick that up. All of that was within
normal limits, but from what we’ve seen,
there’s nothing concerning here. But we will check it all once it’s
all finished and completed. And I haven’t fainted,
so that’s good. And you haven’t fainted. Yes, that’s right. We haven’t had to reach for
our emergency equipment, which is always a good test. (PANTS)
But my heart seems OK? Heart looks good. I’m in good hands with Dr Stamp and so is Anya Monka who is
undergoing open-heart surgery. Anya ended up here
after her male doctor dismissed her shortness
of breath simply as old age. Anya struggled on for months before Dr Nikki Stamp
diagnosed a faulty valve. Now Dr Stamp is literally holding
Anya’s heart and life in her hands. OK, Ange, come up top
and have a look. So this is the sac that
the heart sits in. Wow. (CHUCKLES)
It’s kind of weird, isn’t it. So, we’re just opening it up
and exposing the heart. That is incredible!
Mm-hm. Just to watch her heart
beating like that. I know.
(LAUGHS) It’s very cool. Anya’s experience isn’t uncommon. Research shows women having
a heart attack have better outcomes
if they see a female doctor. DR STAMP: The way a woman
experiences heart disease is quite different and it seems to be there is some
kind of understanding that happens when you have a doctor
who is the same gender as you, for a woman. But right now the number of female
heart specialists is shamefully low. In Australia there are 5%
of heart surgeons are female, which equates to about a dozen. So, I’ve just clamped the aorta and we’re going to give some
medicine to stop the heart and protect the heart. Now the clock is ticking. So we have to just keep
moving from here on out because every extra minute
with the heart stopped puts the heart at risk. So we just have to keep operating. With a bypass machine keeping Anya
alive, Dr Stamp works quickly. I’m just cutting out the valve now. Oh, the tricky valve.
You’re getting it out now? Yeah.
Oh, wow. So it’s quite thick and it
should be almost see-through. And that’s got calcium on it, so that’s been getting thick
for a while. The damaged valve is out. The plan now is to replace it
with a new cow valve, but then the surgery
takes a dramatic turn. I need… Sorry, there’s just going to be
a little bit of discussion here because I just need to
change tack little bit. Need me to move? I just need someone to
call her husband. Anya’s heart is too small
for the replacement valve. What’s her body surface area,
Bersim? 169. So she can take a 21, 19 or 21,
but it’s way too small. Outside, Anya’s family knows
the surgery is taking too long. Back in theatre the medical team
devises a new plan. Instead of replacing Anya’s aortic
valve, they decide to rebuild it. And it works. So that there, that’s a new
aorta that we built because hers was so small that we
couldn’t even put a valve in there. So that’s the white thing
that you’re pointing to, is the one that you put in there. Yeah. We don’t do this very often, really. Probably do one or two
of these a year. And just incredible, really, that the heart was stopped
for that period of time and now beating again on its own. So it was stopped for
one hour, 47 minutes. One hour 47 minutes
her heart was stopped and now it’s bidding on its own,
and healthy. Healthy. Looking very good. It’s been an anxious
wait for Anya’s family. Hello. Hi. How is everybody?
Well. Good. Alright, so all finished. It took longer than expected. It was a bit more complicated
than we’d anticipated. But all has gone well. She is safe and well
and her heart is very happy. So we’re just going to send her
back to Intensive Care. I’ll see you soon, OK? Thank you.
Alright, no problems. You spoke with Dr Stamp. How are you all feeling now? Relieved. Very, very relieved. Yeah. It’s been a very long day. Well, I was standing about 15cm
from your mum’s open chest, your wife’s open chest. I could see her heart beating. It was the most remarkable thing
I’ve ever seen. You know, this group of people
stood around it and saved your wife
and your mum’s life. I’m very grateful. It will take a few months
for Anya to fully recover, but Dr Stamp is confident
her heart will keep her going for a long time to come. Is it special when you know you’ve
helped save a woman who could have fallen through
the cracks? I try not to play favourites with
my patients but I do love helping out a woman, particularly when I know
that women are so at risk. It feels like I’m perhaps doing something towards helping
the cause of women’s hearts. What should be the main takeaway for
Australian women watching this story? I want every woman to understand
that her heart is important, and just as important as getting
your Pap smears and your mammogram. You need to get your heart checked
every year. (GENTLE MUSIC)

3 thoughts on “Women’s Heart Health | Heart disease claims lives of more women than breast cancer | Sunday Night

  • the ignorance of Drs is the issue… women do go for help and are told they are attention seeking… and in the meantime their medical conditions go untreated…

  • Some doctors just don't believe you when you tell them how you feel ,until it's too late and you end up in hospital!! So unfair.

  • Is it possible for doctors to cure the many ailments we endure ?

    The statistics show things are getting worse.
    Alzheimers dementia arthritis heart disease diabetes obesity cancer and on and on.
    Help!

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