Robert Kerruish is a Heart Foundation advocate. He is passionate about raising awareness about heart attacks after he watched his father die.
Robert Kerruish is a Heart Foundation advocate. He is passionate about raising awareness about heart attacks after he watched his father die. Ashley Pillhofer

Mackay man taking on our biggest killer

AT THE age of 13, Robert Kerruish watched his 36-year-old father have a heart attack in the family's lounge room.

Mr Kerruish said the day his father died from a heart attack was "etched” in his mind.

"He had had quite a few heart attacks before that. He just started having convulsions on the couch one Monday afternoon,” he said.

"Mum and my sister were jumping on dad's chest trying very poor attempts at CPR. There were two ambulances parked in the yard and then they took him to hospital.

"I was left with the neighbours because I was so young ... Then mum leant over the fence later on and said 'Dad is not coming home'.”

Watching his father die pushed Mr Kerruish to become an advocate for the Heart Foundation at age 25. Now, decades later, he still works alongside the group and is just as determined to help save people from Australia's worst killer.

About 110 people die from heart disease every year in the Mackay region and Mr Kerruish said people needed to be aware of the symptoms.

"There are so many stories which I have heard where people are short of breath because they've been working in the yard,” he said.

"They say 'oh I will just nip upstairs and have a shower, a cup of tea but, before the jug boils, they are dead on the floor.”

Despite leading a healthy lifestyle, genetics caught up with Mr Kerruish and, without knowing it, he also had a heart attack last year.

He only became aware when general checks revealed he had suffered a large heart attack.

"If I had not lead a relativity healthy life, I would have gone like my dad. I would have been dead a decade ago, he said. "It is something that can be managed and dealt with.”

Find more information at heartfoundation.org.au

WHAT IS A HEART ATTACK?

A heart attack occurs when an artery supplying blood to the heart becomes blocked. This blockage reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the heart muscle and, without treatment, the heart muscle will begin to die, leading to permanent heart damage. Heart attacks can be fatal. If you are, or someone you know is, experiencing heart attack symptoms, you should immediately phone 000.

Symptoms:

Include tightness or pain in the chest, neck, back or arms, as well as fatigue, light-headedness, abnormal heartbeat and anxiety. Women are more likely to have atypical symptoms than men.

People may experience:

Pain areas: in the area between shoulder blades, arm, chest, jaw, left arm, or upper abdomen

Pain circumstances: can occur during rest

Pain types: can be like a clenched fist in the chest

Whole body: dizziness, fatigue, light-headedness, clammy skin, cold sweat, or sweating

Gastrointestinal: heartburn, indigestion, nausea, or vomiting

Neck: discomfort or tightness

Arm: discomfort or tightness

Also common: anxiety, chest pressure, feeling of impending doom, palpitations, shortness of breath, or shoulder discomfort



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