A life of courage and adventure

Lawrie Coe is like a cat with nine lives. He’s had heart issues for 30 years, leading to 12 angiograms, a stent and angina. Today he lives with both heart disease and Parkinson’s. 

Lawrie Coe living with heart disease

He’s also battled with diabetes, had peritonitis, an eye operation for glaucoma, and has four artificial joints. Today he lives with both heart disease and Parkinson’s. He’s even survived a tornado.

In September 1990, Lawrie was out checking the cows on his Waiuku farm when a tornado hit. The 120kg man and his quad-bike were picked up and rocketed 100 metres into another paddock.  

"It was like a giant hand came down,” Lawrie recalls. “Aside from a stiff neck, sore back and a few bruises I was OK, but my brand-new fence was smashed and the bike was completely wrecked. The roof of our hay shed ended up 2km away and 13 out of 26 trees were blown down. We never found the hay shed doors.

“I guess I was pretty lucky.” Jim Hickey, former TV weather presenter, came and shot a story about the freak incident from Lawrie’s farm. “I was the headline story on the news on two channels that night. Even Fox TV in the US did a piece,” he says.

Staying active has always been Lawrie’s way of dealing with life’s challenges.

Working on the farm, playing music, surf life-saving and rugby are his passions. 

"I used to play in a band with the late Gerry Merito, one of the original members of the Howard Morrison quartet. I helped set up the surf life-saving patrols in my area at Karioitahi Beach but, with my health problems, I’ve had to let a few things go and tread the middle ground so I don’t overdo it,” he says.

Lawrie has atrial fibrillation, which gives him abnormal heart rhythms, and he also suffers from chest discomfort caused by angina. “My heart is like a V8 engine with the leads on the wrong cylinders.”

Lawrie says he’s been fortunate to have such a great cardiologist in Dr Ivor Gerber. “He really knows his stuff.” 

The Heart Foundation, through its supporters, provided Dr Gerber with research grants in 2001 and 2002 towards his doctorate degree as well as a $60,000 annual salary for his Post-Doctoral Overseas Training Fellowship in San Francisco in 2003.

“The Heart Foundation’s financial support early in my cardiology career allowed me to do collaborative research in New Zealand, to subsequently obtain further subspecialty training in San Francisco, and then return to New Zealand to put to use the skills obtained during those years.

“My family, including both children, are supporters of the Heart Foundation and have been involved with fundraising, completing the circle,” Dr Gerber says.

Heart research and training cardiologists, that’s what the Heart Foundation is all about – I think it’s money well spent!” Lawrie says.

“The Heart Foundation’s commitment to funding research and training is excellent. Cardiologists and researchers must have funding that is going to assist and help, and the Heart Foundation is the ideal way to do it”

Lawrie takes pride in the fact that his son Jim Coe had a great rugby career, playing with the likes of Jonah Lomu and Joeli Vidiri.

“Stephen Donald’s father, Brett, was Jim’s first coach. He said Jim was the most outstanding athlete and swimmer he had been associated with in his 30 year period with Waiuku College.

“Jim went on to play 182 games for the Counties Manukau senior team from 1986 to 1999. He was in the Maori All Black team for nine years and played his last game at age 39.” Lawrie’s grandson Aaron played for the Counties Manukau Under-19s as a half back.

“I’m grateful that I’m still around today to see my grandson follow in his dad’s footsteps.”

After a long history of heart issues, which Lawrie calls “fun and games”, it was a natural choice for him and his wife Rae to support the Heart Foundation through our lottery. They see their standing order for tickets six times a year as a great way to contribute.  

“Who knows, one day we might even win a new home, a fancy overseas holiday or a new car. At $15 a ticket it’s a very affordable way of supporting the Foundation,” Rae says. 

Now in their 70s, the couple recently decided to include the Heart Foundation in their Wills. 

“The reason we did this was due to my ongoing heart problems,” Lawrie says. “It doesn’t affect our current standard of living but we know it will make a real difference to the lives of others. I felt it was one way of giving back to those who’ve helped me,” he adds.  

He says it was simple to make provision for their family and then allocate funds to the Heart Foundation.

“We feel good knowing that the life-saving work of the Heart Foundation will carry on and that we have played a part in helping future generations”

“We wanted to share our story to encourage others to do the same.” 

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