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.
In 2016, Robert was experiencing extreme tiredness, lack of energy and he even fell asleep while out on his ride on mower. Knowing something wasn’t right, he visited his local GP in Emerald who referred Rob to the Heart of Australia truck.
Stepping on to the truck, and being assessed by Dr Damien Roper, Rob says “the Heart of Australia Team couldn’t do enough for me.” After an initial assessment and undergoing a series of tests he was told that his heart was having an extra 35,000 beats per day. Rob was instructed to see Dr Haris Haqqani, who Dr Roper studied under, at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.
Rob was informed that he would be required to undergo surgery for a heart ablation followed by a pacemaker being fitted. This procedure involves scarring or destroying tissue in your heart which is allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm. The pacemaker then maintains a regular heart rate.
Following on from his surgery, Rob was required to attend some follow up appointments. Due to Heart of Australia visiting Emerald each month, he was able to have these appointments with Dr Roper without needing to travel the 850 kilometres to Brisbane.
Now thanks to advanced technology, Rob is able to have a yearly ‘virtual check-up’. The remote monitoring allows him to securely transmit data from his pacemaker to his Cardiologist from the comfort of his home. “It simply takes 20-30 seconds and my specialist can monitor any changes and advise if any action needs to take place.”
Coincidently, Rob was the second in his family to visit the Heart of Australia clinic. A few months earlier Rob’s daughter, Rasheeda, was feeling unwell. After a visit to her local GP, she received a referral to Heart of Australia where some initial testing was completed. Rasheeda learnt that her heart was stopping and a pacemaker would need to be fitted.
Rob’s heart condition was diagnosed just 6 weeks later. “I can’t recommend you guys enough, I really can’t” he says.
Now Rob is the caretaker at the Emerald Showgrounds which houses the HEART1 truck each visit to town. He ensures the site is prepared for the trucks arrival, the gates are open and area is clear for ease of set up. He even welcomes the team with freshly baked slices and, when in season, local mandarins.