Heart of Australia patient Sonya Jenkins captivated the audience at the recent Heart of Australia Gala dinner with her heartfelt and authentic story.
Sonya lives in Cecil Plains, a small town about a 30-minute’s drive south of Dalby, with a population of around 400 people. She credits Heart of Australia with saving her life.
“Before Heart of Australia came into my life, I was in a very dark place.”
“All my life, I had been a hardworking woman – mainly as a house cleaner. I was proud of the work I did to help families run smoothly. I was a single mother to my beautiful daughter Jasmine, and I was incredibly proud to care for her, provide for her, and raise her. But that all changed when I got sick.”
“It started with the flu, but I just didn’t get better. I couldn’t catch my breath, I was always exhausted all the time, and I couldn’t work more than three hours at a time if that.
“When I didn’t get better, I knew something was wrong. I went to my GP in Cecils Plains. They found there was something wrong with my heart valve and said it needed to be fixed straight away. So they sent me to a cardiologist at a major Brisbane hospital.
“The cardiologist there checked me over, said I’d be fine, to go home and that it wasn’t serious… and that I’d pretty much need to have a heart attack before they’d even look at me.”
“I explained that as a single mum who needed to work and care for my daughter, it was serious to me, but they sent me home anyway.”
“I put up with it for about four years, but life was unbearable. I couldn’t hold up a vacuum cleaner, so I couldn’t work. I couldn’t help all the families whose homes I had cleaned for so long. I was really embarrassed and started hiding from people. No one knew I was sick.”
“Because I couldn’t work, I didn’t earn any income. I couldn’t provide for my daughter as an independent woman. That was a low point. Jazzy was only five at the time, but I was so sick I couldn’t give her the love, care and attention I wanted to. She actually became my carer, and she missed out on some of her childhood we can’t ever get back. She took on the parenting role, which is actually something I’m still struggling to take back from her – but that’s a different story.”
“I wanted to get better, so I kept going back to the GP, who kept sending me back to Brisbane. But the cardiologists there kept sending me home. Eventually, I stopped going. It’s a very expensive thing to head to Brisbane. I wasn’t working, and I just couldn’t afford to keep travelling to Brisbane only to be told to go home.”
“It was a very dark time. I couldn’t work; I couldn’t provide or care for my daughter. I couldn’t breathe. I had some very dark thoughts.”
“That’s when Heart of Australia and Dr Gomes came into my life.
“I was visiting my local GP, and the nurse asked me if I’d like her to see if I could visit a cardiologist on the Heart Truck. I’d never heard of it, and it didn’t normally come to Cecils Plains – it’s not on their route, but it was making a special visit. I said yes.”
“I stepped onto the Heart Truck, and I was amazed by how impressive it is. It’s just as good as any clinic I went to in Brisbane – but the people were much nicer. Dr Gomes saw me and immediately told me that something needed to be done.”
“I explained that I had tried to get it fixed and that my GP had tried, but nothing worked. Dr Gomes said he’d write the people in Brisbane a letter. I didn’t expect anything to come out of it because I was just used to the knockbacks and having to fight on the best I could as a mum. I don’t know what he put in that letter, but it was like he put a rocket up their bum.”
“I could not believe the difference it made, but now I know what’s possible when you have a leading specialist in your corner – especially when you live in a tiny country town. Everything changed, and within months, I was in surgery.
“As soon as I woke up after the operation – I knew something was different. I could breathe. It took several weeks to recover properly, but everything had changed. I could work. I could care for my daughter, and I could provide for her. These days I can even work with heavy equipment on a construction site.
“Since getting the surgery, I am me again. The darkness and all the very dark thoughts about being worthless and there being no hope for a future disappeared. And that’s why I need to tell you that Dr Gomes and Heart of Australia not only saved my heart – they truly saved my life.
“I would also like to thank Arrow Energy who, as Foundation Partner of Heart of Australia, make all of these services possible. Thank you so much!”