Heart failure at 20 years old
Published: 30 April 2021
“Our mental health is as important as our physical health.”
Following her experiences with heart disease, Tara thinks it’s important to talk to friends, family, or health professionals about how you’re feeling through your journey.
In 2011 Tara noticed she had little to no energy but put it down to being a first-time mum. However, after suffering from shortness of breath and chest pain she went to see her GP.
“The doctor did an electrocardiograph (ECG) and after looking at the result it was sent through to the hospital to review. The hospital wanted to see me urgently.”
Tara’s ECG had shown evidence suggesting a heart attack.
Her doctor arranged for an ultrasound test of the heart, called an echocardiogram, and Tara was diagnosed with heart failure – her heart was working at just 30 per cent of its normal function, due to a heart muscle problem called familial dilated cardiomyopathy.
“I started taking medications and after a few months my heart function improved,” says Tara.
Over the next few years Tara carried on with normal life with her son, until 2017 when she collapsed at home.
“I was unconscious for seven minutes and was admitted to hospital.”
Tara was referred to have a device inserted as the doctors were concerned about possible heart rhythm disorders.
Less than a week after having the device inserted, they found she was having life-threatening rhythm problems called ventricular tachycardia and would need an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).
“After that I wasn't allowed to drive for six months and, as a single mum working full time and living on my own, it was very difficult.
“The whole experience was terrifying, but I knew it could possibly save my life one day,” she adds.
Tara says that she is lucky to have had amazing support around her throughout her journey with heart conditions.
“I have a fantastic heart failure nurse who has been by my side since day one. The clinical nurse specialists at the hospital have also made my ICD journey a lot easier and have been so supportive. But my biggest supporters have been my family and friends,” she says.
Adjusting to life with a heart condition can be worrying for many people who have concerns about what their condition means for the future.
Tara’s advice for anyone going through a similar experience is to talk to family, friends, or health professionals about how you’re feeling.
“Positive mental health can play a big part in helping recovery after a heart event. I was in denial after being told I needed an ICD, and the best thing I did was ask for help.
“This whole journey has taken its toll on me mentally and I am grateful I had counselling offered to me. Our mental health is as important as our physical health.”
The Heart Foundation offers local events and support groups to help New Zealanders living with heart disease.Find an event close to you