Dr Alexander Dashwood has always had an interest in the rural communities of Australia. He previously worked with the indigenous cardiac outreach programme and thought this initiative was the perfect way to give back to the rural communities and to improve cardiac health to those living in rural and remote communities.
So when he first discovered the Heart of Australia program, he thought it was the perfect fit for him. Dr Dashwood enjoys working with patients cut from a different cloth to those living in metropolitan areas. He says “Despite having chest pain, many patients will be out on their ten thousand acre properties locating cattle rather than finding a resolution for their ailments.”
Dr Dashwood recalls one patient who was a sheep sheerer. He was experiencing worsening exertional chest pain which had developed over two weeks. After much convincing by his daughter, he decided to see a cardiologist.
After explaining his symptoms to Dr Dashwood, the patient underwent an exercise stress echocardiogram revealing extensive inducible ischemia. Inducible ischemia is the presence of abnormalities in the heart during exercise, however not at rest. Due to the acute history and echo findings, Dr Dashwood instructed the patient to travel to Brisbane on the same flight as him that afternoon rather than his original plan; to drive 700kms into central Queensland to sheer 400 sheep the next day. Fortunately he agreed and a stent was deployed into one of the main coronary arteries the next morning.
Another patient was experiencing shortness of breath for over a year. She thought it was time to visit her GP after she was unable to walk further than 15 metres while doing her grocery shopping. She received a referral to Heart of Australia and booked an appointment. During her visit an echocardiogram revealed a severely enlarged right ventricle with severe tricuspid regurgitation and a right ventricular systolic pressure (RVSP) of >90mmHg. The standard RVSP rate is 12-16mmHg.
Dr Dashwood was able to organise an urgent admission to The Prince Charles Hospital with rural liaison officers. Dr Dashwood says “We got the specialised pulmonary HTN team involved and started her on special access medication. She can now walk to the shops and has a great quality of life.”
In 2021 Dr Dashwood’s role with Heart of Australia is expanding. While being one of the much loved cardiologists, he will also be the primary contact for all Heart of Australia medical specialists as well as manage the educational programs. Dr Dashwood’s skills and experience are imperative to the Heart of Australia program, and to those living in rural and remote communities.