On his bike to improve his life cycle

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Kris McGibbon setting off on a cycle.
Fifteen years after a major stroke and the first of four stents were fitted to help his heart, avid WA cyclist Kris McGibbon is all smiles and fitter than ever before.

Now aged 60, Kris cycles six hours a day, often travelling between seven of Perth’s city and suburban hospitals. At each hospital, he likes to pop in and provide a word of encouragement to other Aboriginal patients recovering from heart problems.

Left with permanent damage to his right arm and foot from the stroke, initially getting back on to the bike was a gruelling task that required nerves of steel.

At the start, Kris had to resort to using wire to hold his partially paralysed foot in place and keep it on the pedal.

Steering with one hand, he found it extremely difficult to balance and took too many tumbles to count.

But ever grateful of his second chance at life, Kris kept on dusting himself off and getting back on.

Still now keeping up with both regular exercise and cardiac rehabilitation, Kris has also overhauled bad habits, giving up alcohol and cigarettes a decade ago.

Kris McGibbon with his bicycle.

 “Back when my stroke occurred, it was a Saturday and I had been at my brother-in-law’s house smoking and drinking,” he said.

“I suddenly just fell over. Something was very, very wrong. I could not move my right arm or leg and I could not speak.

“My mind was racing and I kept thinking ‘please God help me’. The answer I got back was ‘have patience’.”

His family rushed to call an ambulance and he was taken to Royal Perth Hospital for treatment and extensive rehab.

After coming home, he realised his recovery, including improving his speech, would be a long journey.

He also learnt to listen to and act on early warning signs from his body.

Seeking advice from a doctor about a bout of tiredness and vomiting in 2014 resulted in him being sent to hospital and three more stents being put in.

Kris regularly attends both his Church and also the heart health program based at Perth’s Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation.

“The heart health classes keep a regular check on my heart, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels,” he said.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Aboriginal Australians, however, only around 5% of eligible Aboriginal people attend cardiac rehabilitation.

Through much community consultation, and strong collaboration between the Heart Foundation, Derbarl Yerrigan and Royal Perth Hospital staff, the culturally appropriate heart health program was established to help address this treatment gap.

The Heart Foundation strongly recommends having a heart health check if you're over 45 years old, and over 35 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Learn more about what happens at a heart health check and why you should book the appointment. 

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We want to hear from people who are living with heart disease and from families and friends who care for, or who have lost, loved ones with heart disease.