Mount Barker heart Peer Support Group opens

Heart Support Australia (HSA) is opening its third South Australian Peer Support Group in Mount Barker on Thursday 15 June, bringing the number of support group locations across Australia to 16. 

The HSA Peer Support Groups are unique communal support programs offering comfort and guidance to those who have recently undergone a heart event and also for those who have experienced heart conditions and rehabilitation. 

Recently appointed HSA CEO, Dr Christian Verdicchio says due to demand the organisation is expanding their Peer Support Groups across Australia with many more planned to open in the next year as he explains, “heart disease continues to dominate the majority of long-term health conditions of all Australians.” 

“Unfortunately, far too often when people are diagnosed with or undergo treatment for a heart condition, they don’t have ongoing support and that can be incredibly isolating. 

“Our support groups are designed to ensure our patients are staying on the path to a healthier life by making it known to them that they are not alone because they are interacting with their leader and group members who have gone through similar circumstances,” Christian says. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s 2021 Census, combined, heart disease and strokes account for almost 5 per cent of long-term health conditions in Mount Barker. 

The group was set up with the help of SA Health and will be led by Lesley How who was “taken completely by surprise” by her heart event in September 2022 while working a demanding role in the construction industry. 

“I was working fairly long hours until one Friday evening I had pains in my chest that eventually spread down my left arm,” Lesley says. 

“I booked a local GP who sent me to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where they discovered a blocked artery, but during my wait to see the GP I suffered a minor heart attack,” she says. 

Lesley was fortunate to not suffer any damage to her heart but it was a “wake-up call” to change her taxing lifestyle. 

“When something like this occurs there is a strong push to deny what’s happened and ‘solider on’, but in reality it’s a wake-up call to throttle back,” she says. 

“I want to help others in my local community who have had similar, and in many cases far more serious incidents, come to terms with the realities of what has occurred and plan for a healthier future,” she says. 

The Peer Support Group leader is excited to establish a forum where people can “share experiences with others who understand, not just the mechanics of what has happened but how it affects one’s view of themself, which can change after an event that is life-threatening.” 

“I hope to attract people who are working and entice them to finish early that day to meet up for a chat and some support as well as retirees and semi-retirees like myself,” Lesley says. 

The Mount Barker Peer Support Group will take place on the third Thursday of each month at 3pm. 

The peer support program initiative derives from a new era of managing heart disease that empowers heart patients with education, improved self-esteem, and larger support networks that result in less of a strain on our health system with fewer hospital stays and trips to the GP. 

The Mount Barker group opening comes ahead of hearts4heart’s week-long Heart Failure Awareness campaign starting 19 June. This year the promotion charity is launching a patient guide on “Living with Heart Failure: A Practical Guide for Patients and Loved Ones”, aligning their mission with HSA’s to empower patients and their multidisciplinary care team in their heart journeys. 

Heart Support Australia will open a fourth SA location in Victor Harbor in mid-July

Mount Barker heart Peer Support Group opens