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Show your big heart by supporting the Big Heart Appeal

Young, fit and loving life. At only 41 Trudy Hudson-Owen never thought she'd have a heart attack, let alone in such a dramatic way. The Whangarei mother of two was washing the windows at home on a Sunday afternoon, when she started to feel unwell. And within 20 minutes, she had no pulse.

Trudy and her family

Show your big heart and support research to help survivors like Trudy, at the Heart Foundation’s Big Heart Appeal street collection, Friday 19 and Saturday 20 February.

Heart disease is the single biggest killer of men and women in New Zealand, and the Heart Foundation is calling for people to show their big heart by supporting its Big Heart Appeal street collection on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 February.

"While the Heart Foundation is committed to tackling heart disease in New Zealand, we can't do it alone," says Heart Foundation Medical Director Gerry Devlin.

Every 90 minutes, one New Zealander dies of heart disease and the Heart Foundation's vital work funds research to save lives and improve the quality of life for the 180,000 New Zealanders living with heart disease.

Your support helps people such as Whangarei mother of two, Trudy Hudson-Owen.

Young, fit and loving life, at only 41 Trudy never thought she’d have a heart attack, let alone in such a dramatic way. On a Sunday afternoon Trudy was washing the windows at home when she started to feel unwell.

"I was feeling pretty awful by that stage and the feeling in my arms was really horrible. Part way through the journey I lost consciousness and passed out. My husband said I flopped over onto him and he tried to prop me up, while trying to drive as well," says Trudy.

"When we arrived at the emergency department James just drove up through the barriers and straight up to the emergency doors, and just yelled and screamed for some help."

"The nurses came out they just grabbed me and dragged me out of the car. I was unconscious, I wasn't breathing, I had no heartbeat, no nothing. I was lights out. I was just gone.

“They started doing CPR on me, right there on the concrete at the main entrance to the hospital beside the car."

"Eventually they got me up onto a bed and I was shocked three times with a defibrillator. They took me into ED and the team worked really hard to get me back, but I wasn't trying to breathe or anything by myself, so they made the decision to intubate me and put me on life support and transferred me to the Intensive Care Unit."

Heart event is a shock for Trudy

The event came out of the blue, with Trudy being fit and healthy with no symptoms.

"My arteries are beautiful. I have no risk factors. I'm really fit. I'm not overweight, I eat healthy, I do all those things," she says.

Because of this, it took the doctors a while to realise Trudy had suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), that caused her to go into cardiac arrest.

That was nearly two years ago, and Trudys recovery has been a long, hard road since then. But with the help of specialist cardiologists and rehabilitation staff, Trudy is getting her life back on track and managing her fear that it could happen again.

More research into SCAD needed

Research into Trudy's heart condition, SCAD, is one of the many specialist research areas the Heart Foundation funds.

Cardiologist, Dr Cameron McAlister, is the recipient of a Heart Foundation overseas research and training fellowship working with the world's leading SCAD cardiologists in Canada.

"Increased knowledge about SCAD will help survivors and their doctors manage their symptoms and let them get back to a normal life. And improving their management will help us decrease mortality and morbidity and reduce the number of people who have recurrent SCAD events," says Cameron.

"The reason why SCAD is an issue is because it can affect anyone, but it's mostly the young females who are otherwise healthy and you wouldn't expect to have a heart attack. It's really vital that they get the correct diagnosis so they can get the correct management, which can be different to people experiencing other heart events."

The Heart Foundation is New Zealand's leading independent funder of heart research. Since 1968, it has funded more than $74 million in research and specialist training on the bench-to-bedside spectrum, including new treatments, structural interventions and prevention.

Trudy says the importance of the research funding is huge and does save lives.

"SCAD affects young, fit, healthy women. The younger you are, the less life you've lived, the more life you've got to live," she says.

"I count myself so lucky that I'm still here, to be here with my children and my husband, and my family and my friends, because I've got so much more living to do.

We really do need more research into heart disease so that more of us can live a longer life. We would miss out on so much if we weren't here.

I think to put money into something that's going to help younger people, who still have so much to give, and so much life to live, that's a no-brainer."

Heart Foundation volunteer collectors will be collecting much-needed donations nationwide on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 February 2020, so please give generously. 

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