New heart peer support group opens in Riverland

Heart Support Australia (HSA) will open its fifth South Australian Peer Support Group in the
Riverland this week, offering post-heart event support to cardiovascular patients in the region.
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.

According to the 2021 Census data, 31.6 per cent of all people in the Riverland including
Loxton, Berri, Renmark, Waikerie and Barmera, live with heart disease.

HSA CEO Dr Christian Verdicchio said that the concerning number is largely to do with “poorer
health outcomes” and “less accessibility to health care” for Australians in rural areas.

“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,” 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.

The group was set up with the help of the Berri Barmera Council and will be led by John Krause,
who despite his active lifestyle, was diagnosed with a blocked artery after experiencing chest
pains when riding his bike from Loxton to Berri and back.

“I went to the GP and had a stress test that I failed four minutes in,” John said.
“I had been riding my bike 7000 kilometres across two years as part of the Great Cycle
Challenge and would partake in Parkrun (local community wellness event) every Saturday
morning,” he said.

John was told by his doctor he would also need a replacement of his aortic valve.
“It’s as much a mental game as it is physical and that’s why the Peer Support Group is so
important to me,

“It’s about encouraging others to help themselves, getting off the couch and hanging around
positive people… I give up my morning to run this event for HSA, but it also helps me on my
heart journey too,” he said.

The Riverland Peer Support Group will take place at the Len Mahoney Room in Berri Town Hall
on Monday 17 July and then the Pavilion, Berri on the third Monday of each month from 9.30am
moving forward.

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.

To attend the next Riverland session, please get in touch with John Krause on 0414 450 224 or

Heart Support Australia will open a sixth SA location in Adelaide’s south on Wednesday, 19

New heart peer support group opens in Riverland