Alumni News Articles

Heart surgery for Lisa Curry Kenny

3 April 2008

Immediate past Chair of the National Australia Day Council, triple Olympian, Commonwealth Games medallist, four time Outrigger Canoe World Champion, business woman, author and mother of three, Lisa Curry Kenny AO MBE, will undergo surgery this morning (Monday 31 March 2008) to treat a heart condition.

Curry Kenny's heart is beating irregularly and erratically - a condition known as Myocarditis.  Left unchecked, the condition could result in cardiac arrest.  Doctors believe her heart muscle suffered injury from a viral infection which may have been compounded by a rigorous training program.

During today's surgery, the cardiologist will implant a cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) which can detect and deal with a dangerous, rapid heart rhythm by applying a burst of pacing or the delivery of an internal shock.  The defibrillator will stay with Curry Kenny for the remainder of her life.

Shocked by the diagnosis, 45 year old Curry Kenny is preparing for the surgery and the changes she will have to make to her lifestyle.  After the surgery, she will be under strict doctor's orders to rest completely for at least three months and her heart will be monitored regularly to ensure the defibrillator is operating correctly. She will also be on medication to unload and settle the excitability of the electrical system of the heart.

"This has been a very big challenge for me and for my family and I'm dealing with this as I have always approached big challenges - one step at a time," said Curry Kenny.

"Right now I'm just trying to walk my talk and stay positive.

"This is something I never thought would happen to me.

"The risk of cardiac arrest is very small but unpredictable and I'm not prepared to jeopardise my life for that small risk.

"I was in training to compete in the World solo long distance canoe championship race in Hawaii at the end of April.

"Training was going really well and then, one day, I just didn't feel right so for the past two months I've been undergoing tests to determine why I've been feeling unwell, but it was my paramedic training partner who guessed what it was."

Curry Kenny is concerned that many athletes may be similarly pushing themselves beyond healthy limits and wants to warn other sportspeople to be mindful of their long term health.

"This is a timely lesson for elite athletes who are pushing themselves to train as hard as they can every day and for anyone who is extremely committed to their sport and their fitness programs," said Curry Kenny.

"Many athletes continue to push themselves in training despite feeling tired or unwell, but it can be dangerous - you must listen to your body and rest when you need to in order to protect your long term health.

"I don't really know when I suffered from the virus that damaged my heart because, while there have been times I've felt lethargic or very tired, I haven't felt particularly sick.

"Right now, what's important to me as a mum and a wife is fixing this problem and regaining my full health, and I hope everyone will understand and respect our need for privacy during this time of rest and recovery."

Curry Kenny retired from the role of Chair of the National Australia Day Council this year and will receive her Order Of Australia medal from the Governor General in Canberra next week.

She won what was possibly the last race of her career at the National One Man Canoe Championships in Coffs Harbour in late January, a race she won in 2hrs, 20min as lead-up race to the five hour Hawaiian race she was training for recently.

For Lisa Curry Kenny's bio click here

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