2 July 2024

Late last year Tony Howard started to notice a change in his energy levels.

The 60-year-old IT service administrator had always been reasonably energetic but suddenly he was out of breath climbing stairs – or he struggled to talk while he was walking.

Tony went to his local GP who said his heart didn’t sound right and sent him to Lumus Imaging at Wimmera Base Hospital for an ultrasound. He was then referred to a cardiologist in Ballarat and was eventually admitted to Royal Melbourne Hospital for open heart surgery where his main aortic valve was replaced.

When he returned to Horsham and was discharged, Tony said he was referred to the Cardiac Rehabilitation program that is coordinated by nurse Jo Carroll in the Arapiles Building of Grampians Health’s Horsham campus.

“I was on the cardiac rehab program for eight weeks and I was getting the right exercise there,” Tony said.

“When my eight weeks was complete, I realised that I wanted to continue with the exercise and I really wanted to remain involved in some type of group therapy to inspire me to keep active.

“I definitely wanted to keep up the walking because that’s the best exercise for the heart and it’s also good for your mental wellbeing. The thought of walking on my own wasn’t the best idea because there would be days when I could easily decide that I might not bother today.

“But when you’re in a group, you feel a commitment to the rest of them to participate each time.”

Tony contacted the Heart Foundation to see if they had a walking group in Horsham.

“They told me there wasn’t but if I would like to start one under the Heart Foundation, they would make me their coordinator,” he said.

“So I had to pass all the usual checks and now I’m their official coordinator.”

“The allied health team at Grampians Health who guided me through my rehab have also gotten behind me and supported me to do this. Anyone is welcome to get involved and come for a walk - this is a second chance at life for me and I know there will be a few around here in the same boat.”

Tony wants people to join his group Horsham Riverside Walkers on Facebook or simply by turning up on the day.

“We will meet at the Horsham Angling Club and walk along the river every Wednesday at 9am, starting from July 3 so people can just come along and join in.”

Horsham heart walk
Horsham cardiac patient Tony Howard and cardiac rehab coordinator Jo Carroll
show Heart Foundation Walking Together posters while walking with
Grampians Health allied health team members who were involved in Tony’s recovery.