New heart peer support group opens in Clermont

Heart Support Australia (HSA) will open a Peer Support Group in Clermont to offer post-heart
event support for cardiac patients in the region, starting on Saturday 29 July.

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

HSA CEO Dr Christian Verdicchio said that the long-term health outcomes of Queenslanders
living in rural towns are “poorer” because residents have “less accessibility to health care”.

“We are proud to open a Peer Support Group in Clermont and align the Heart Support mission
with the local government’s Rural and Remote Health and Wellbeing Strategy to achieve equity
for rural and remote communities,” Christian said.

“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,” he said.

For Clermont, the closest cardiac care unit is almost 300km away at the Mackay Base Hospital,
meaning patients who return home from treatment and their families in the region often do not
have access to ongoing support.

Leading the Clermont Peer Support Group will be Claudia Stephson who, despite her active
lifestyle, suffered a major cardiac event that involved two hospital transfers due to her

“I drove myself hastily to the local hospital after waking up with pain between my shoulder
blades and running down the back of my arms that progressed into tightness in my chest,
nausea and cold sweats,” Claudia said.

From her local hospital Claudia was transferred to the Mackay Base Hospital where her doctor
found seven blockages in her heart ranging from 20 to 100 per cent that were not treatable with
a stent.

“After stabilising treatment and rest, I was flown to Townsville Mater Hospital for a triple bypass
surgery,” she said.

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 fewer hospital stays and less trips to the GP.

“Sides effects after cardiac events such as anger, depression, trouble sleeping and nightmares
are quite normal and our clinicians do such a fabulous job fixing bodies but they rarely have
time to ask how patients, spouses and families are coping with the new reality,” Claudia said.

“I hope that my fellow survivors and I can change that,” she concluded.

The first Clermont Peer Support Group will be held on Saturday 29 July and then the last
Saturday of every month at the Clermont Railway Station.

To attend the next Clermont session, please get in touch with Claudia on 0437 156 585 or email

New heart peer support group opens in Clermont