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If I’d known to get my heart checked back then, things would’ve certainly been different.

It was the Christmas of 2008 and while most families were gathering together and enjoying the festive season, Reverend Lokeni Fuatagaumu was preparing for a heart operation at Auckland Hospital. It was a heart valve replacement operation which was a result of contracting rheumatic fever at a young age.

Reverend Lokeni is an ordained minister of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa. At the time of his heart event, he was 39 years of age, married with two young boys.

“The hardest thing for me while I was preparing for the operation was thinking about my family especially my two young boys. As a Christian, I wasn’t afraid of death – not at all.  What worried me most was the impact it was going to have on my wife and family. If I was going to go - who would provide for them? Who would take care of them? At such a young age, my boys needed their father to be there!”

“The heart condition was definitely difficult for me to accept as I regularly visited doctor for my asthma condition. If I had known about getting my heart checked back then, things would’ve definitely been different. I would’ve done more of what I needed to do!”

Rev. Lokeni believed his heart condition was a result of many factors – not only contracting rheumatic fever when he was younger – something he was never aware of until he was diagnosed with a heart condition, but also his poor and unhealthy eating habits, his lack of exercise, as well as stress. His asthma also did not help.

Since his heart event, Rev. Lokeni has made many positive changes in not only his own life, but in his family’s lives as well. He says the best part is that the changes have not been difficult at all.

“It was a simple decision to make. If I wanted to live a longer life and be with my family then I had to make some serious changes. It’s been a big wake up call for me and my family. We are mindful of what we eat now - ensuring that it is healthy and good for us. We also exercise regularly as a family. My boys play junior club rugby and I receive awesome support from my wife and family. I have also learnt to take time out for myself – away from everything when it gets a bit too much for me.”

As a minister of God, Rev. Lokeni also commented – “We as ministers of the church - whether we are assigned to a parish or not - need to be more proactive not only in preaching the ‘word’ but living by the ‘word’. We have to be good role models who model healthy living – spiritually, mentally and physically. We need to be at the forefront of ensuring that not only ourselves, but the people whom we are responsible for - as servants of God, are also healthy and well. After all, the message we preach and believe in - is one of life! We need to encourage our Pacific men – and women to get their hearts checked!”

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.