The harsh bobbing beam of hundreds of cyclist lights will break through the darkness on their way out to Tjapukai Adventure Park early this Saturday.
They will be about to start their journey on one of the Far North’s most arduous and yet rewarding, fundraising adventures, the Mt Franklin Cardiac Challenge.
Cyclists will pedal up hill and down dale, all in the name of improving cardiac services in the Far North.
Since inception, the event has raised more than $3.5 million for cardiac services in FNQ including contributing towards the Foundation’s $1.4 million donation to the second cardiac catheter lab project.
It is unique in that every cent donated stays local to help local patients and every cent donated goes to its intended cause. This is because the registration fee covers the cost of running the event, and all the Foundation’s costs are covered by its commercial operations.
Instigated by local heart patient Pete McNally, Cardiac Challenge is responsible for thousands of people achieving something they never previously thought possible – riding 333km to Cooktown.
Read below three local people’s thoughts on the event – the heart patient, the rider and the cardiologist.
Karyn Bristow - the heart patient
LIKE so many heart patients, Karyn Bristow simply never thought it would happen to her.
On the night of October 23 last year, she had some pain in her chest that she attributed to indigestion.
She says she “felt a bit crook” during the night but after getting up early and starting work at 5am she later started to feel a “dull pain” in her chest.
“About 8am, I just felt that something wasn’t right. I had a dull pain, I felt tired and foggy so I nipped over to the doctor’s across from my work and asked for an appointment. They said they could see me in 15 minutes, so I went back to work to get my purse and then I said to one of the other staff ‘I just don’t feel very well’. And that’s the last thing I remember.
“I passed out in her arms and they were then doing CPR on me – the doctor from across the road came over and I think the ambos were there within a few minutes. I kept going in and out, but I was zapped a few times in the ambulance and when I got to hospital too.
“I then remember waking up in the catheter lab at the hospital and vaguely seeing Dr Starmer’s face and he was telling me what they were doing and that I was going to be alright.
“It turned out I had some plaque in my artery that had broken off and was blocking the blood flow. I’ve no family history, I don’t smoke and never have, I don’t drink much, although I am a bit overweight.”
Aged 58 at the time, Mrs Bristow said after a stent was installed and she started to physically recover, it took some time to psychologically recover.
“My head was pretty messed up and I went into a dark place but the support I got from my husband and family, the hospital and the six week cardiac rehab program absolutely changed my life. It’s a great program – I’ve joined a gym now, I eat better and my general outlook on life is so much different. These days I prioritise my family and I’ve learnt that some stresses just aren’t worth it. I guess you realise what’s important.
“At the time, I just didn’t think it was a heart attack. They say it’s a silent killer and it’s so true, but if you’re having any sort of pain, or if something doesn’t feel right, you shouldn’t ignore it. I think people need to be more aware and go to the doctor and get checked out. I was having regular checkups anyway because I’m on blood pressure medication. I could have gone to bed that night and just not woken up. I was just very lucky where I was because the people in my workplace really saved my life. We’re very close now.
“I’ve been given a second chance. I want to be here for my husband, children and grandchildren. At the time I didn’t feel lucky, but now I really do. I’ve got a lot to live for.”
Jimmy Chan - the rider
FOR Jimmy Chan, the sudden loss of a family member to a heart condition, was just the shove he needed to get on the bike.
2018 will be his sixth Mount Franklin Cardiac Challenge and it is an event he never tires of.
“Yes, the road is the same, Desailly Range doesn’t get any easier, but it’s the people you meet and the fun you have along the way that makes it worthwhile,” Mr Chan, 53, said.
“For me, fundraising is easy because I only do this one charity event so I’m not approaching people all the time.
“I remember fondly my first year being 2013. Two years before that I had a scousin up here who tried desperately to get me to do it.
“After I signed up for the 2013 challenge I lost my brother-in-law, who passed away unexpectedly on June 14. He was a lot bigger than me, a lot stronger and a lot fitter. So that came as an unexpected event. He had heart issues which he knew about and that was probably the kick along that I needed. And every year since then I’ve been hooked on it.
“I guess my reasons for doing that could be broken down into three parts.
“The first part is obviously the fundraising side. It’s a great thing to do something for the community. I see it as a long term investment. What we do now in terms of investing in medical equipment and services, as we get older, somewhere down the track we will need them.
“The other part of it is the fitness aspect. It keeps me going, keeps me motivated.
“I love the fun side of it, get out there, meet people, catch up with old mates.
Shane Preston - the Cardiologist
Dr Shane Preston is an interventional cardiologist at Cairns Hospital and has been since 2013.
Originally from Brisbane via Sydney and Canada, Dr Preston became a doctor and a cardiologist because of the immediate beneficial impact on patients.
The son of a boilermaker and dressmaker, he is a keen fisherman and enjoys the FNQ lifestyle.
“I used to read a lot of science books when I was a kid and I asked to do cardiology as an intern. I don’t have any family members who are doctors, it was just something I was always interested in.
“What I enjoy about helping people when they are in this situation is that when they come into the cath lab and you fix their blocked artery, you get to see the result of your work immediately. It’s very satisfying.
“When I moved to Cairns I said to Greg (Dr Starmer) that I would only be here for 12 months.
“A couple of the reasons I love it here is because of the weather and the fishing. When I left Canada it was -20 degrees.
“And I might be biased but we do have an amazing team in the cardiac unit and they are simply awesome to work with. Knowing that we are making a difference to people’s lives makes the long hours and the years of study all worthwhile.”
Dr Preston has been taking part in the Mt Franklin Cardiac Challenge since 2015.
“I first did it because I felt that as a doctor who uses the equipment that it raises money for, I should participate and see what it was all about.
“But now I ride the event each year because I really do enjoy it. It’s a great motivator to keep fit. It’s just fun, it’s good fun and a good cause. We see exactly where the money goes because we’re the ones using the equipment that the ride purchases each year.”
This year his uncle Peter will be riding with him, and his parents are travelling up from Brisbane as support along the ride. “They know I’ve been doing it for a while and they wanted to get involved.”
“I’m taking some days off with the family afterwards and hopefully the fishing will be good in Cooktown.”
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