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Heart surgery gives new lease on life

As a fit and active man, Kalyn De Castro was shocked when diagnosed with heart disease two years ago. But he's faced it head-on and now bravely shares his story with us.

At just 42 years old, Kalyn could barely walk down his driveway.

When diagnosed with heart disease two years earlier, he was told he may need an operation in six to eight years’ time. 

But his health deteriorated faster than expected and Kalyn ended up needing heart valve replacement surgery in May 2015.

By that time, walking just 50 metres to his letterbox left him feeling exhausted. 

It wasn’t the first time Kalyn had experienced health problems relating to his heart. 

Talking to his parents after his diagnosis, he discovered that at four years old he’d had rheumatic fever – a serious illness that can cause the body’s immune system to attack the heart.

Kalyn recovered from the disease, but when he joined the army in his 20s, a routine medical check revealed that he had a heart murmur. 

“The specialists believe the flow-on effect of my rheumatic fever was the heart murmur, which developed into heart disease as I got older. Bit of a ticking time bomb.” 

That bomb went off in 2013, when Kalyn received the news that he had heart disease.

The diagnosis came as a shock, and Kalyn and his family sought to learn more about his condition and, later, the looming surgery. 

He was referred to the Heart Foundation website by a colleague, whose husband had also undergone major heart treatment

“The website is great,” says Kalyn, who is now 42. “I read people’s stories, learnt about the condition and symptoms, and I learnt what to expect after surgery. It was great for my mental fitness as I was prepared for what was to come.”

After surgery last year, Kalyn’s biggest challenge was sitting still; as an active person, it was something he didn’t do often.

But he'd learnt a lot from the Heart Foundation website and was able to set realistic goals for each day. He started small, enjoying his gradual progress along the way. For example, he celebrated walking down the driveway and back for the first time, worked up to doing this twice a day, then eventually was able to walk a lap around the lifestyle block.

Kalyn says work has been going well, and he has been able to slip back into it. His employer was happy for him to take time off when he has needed to.

He still refers back to the Heart Foundation website when he has questions about his heart health, and is now well on the road to recovery.