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Three open heart surgeries, and going strong: Edward’s story of beating the odds

He may have had three open heart surgeries, but that’s not stopping Edward Rex from living life to the full.

Being diagnosed with a heart condition is enough to rattle anyone’s sense of stability. You might suddenly have to dramatically change your diet or lifestyle, start seeing specialists regularly, taking medication, or even undergo procedures. Staying optimistic and getting on with life can be challenging for the most positive of people.
For Mooloolaba local Edward Rex, 77, optimism and resilience are traits he’s near perfected, through multiple heart health scares over the years. Having been dealt the cards of hereditary cardiovascular disease and elevated cholesterol, Rex has had multiple heart attacks, three open heart surgeries, and 11 bypasses to date. Despite that, he’s upbeat about life: he’s only recently retired (formerly a businessman, as well as a registered nurse), walks between 10-15km a day, is an active member of the surf club, and has recently headed to the States, where he’ll be helping his disabled friend rehabilitate from knee replacement surgery, and hopefully travelling onwards to Europe. Impressive, by anyone’s standards.

The power of a good specialist

Edward’s heart troubles began back in 1992, when he suffered his first heart attack. A year later, he had another heart attack, and his first open heart surgery. Seven years on, he suffered yet another heart attack, and underwent his second open heart surgery. Feeling disillusioned that no cardiologist had ever given him good news, and struggling with “intolerable” medication regimes, he went for years avoiding seeing a cardiologist. It was when a friend suggested he see Dr Peter Larsen, managing director of Heart HQ and former Director of Cardiology at Sunshine Coast Hospital, that his faith in the cardiology profession was restored. “When I went to see him in early 2011, I instantly had a rapport with him,” Edward reflects. “I’m not very religious, but he is my god – it’s thanks to his gentle persuasion and persistence that I’m still here.” At the time he started seeing Dr Larsen, Edward was struggling going up and down stairs at home, and by mid-2013, his condition was critical. “Because of my previous open heart surgeries, it was very difficult to find someone who would tackle me, but Dr Larsen persisted and found Dr Peter Tesa, who specialised in taking on cases that no one else wanted to touch,” says Edward.

The right mental attitude

Edward’s third open heart surgery (performed by Dr Tesar) was a success, and he enjoyed a stretch of stable health – until another curveball hit. “In 2021, I went to see Dr Larsen for a check-up because I wanted to travel overseas and he gave me the all-clear, then not even a month later I was in hospital with another heart attack, with a 99% stenosis of one of my bypasses,” he reflects. The unexpected silver lining to this latest health challenge was that Dr Larsen managed to get Edward on the trial for a cholesterol-lowering vaccine. “Since then, my cholesterol has been picture perfect, almost on the low side,” says Edward. Considering his ‘colourful’ health history, one might wonder how Edward keeps positive and continues to make big plans, including overseas travel? “Whenever I get down I just think of my disabled friend or call him and it picks me up: nothing has ever gone right for the poor guy since he was 11 years old, but he’s always smiling and optimistic,” says Edward. “I’m a firm believer that a positive attitude is half the battle and that’s what Dr Tesar instilled in me too: he said he could do his 10% with the operation, but I needed to do the rest.”
As for his advice to others, Edward is a strong advocate for an active lifestyle and enjoying walks in nature. “It doesn’t matter the amount or intensity of exercise that you do, what matters is that you actually do it and stick with it,” he encourages. “Sometimes I have to force myself to go for a walk, but I always think ‘thank god I made you do this, because look how great you feel now.’”

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