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Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia

RHD Australia

Cherie McAdam, Northern Territory

Matters to do with the heart have plagued Cherie’s life.

Cherie McadamsWhen Cherie was just 15 years old her mother underwent heart surgery for a heart condition.
In 2009, Cherie’s youngest daughter Mercii was born with a hole in her heart.

Six days after this, Cherie’s son Luke was hospitalised with chorea.

Then six months later, Cherie’s oldest daughter Kenya, who was suffering from pneumonia and septicemia, had a heart attack. Doctors diagnosed Kenya with RHD and she had to undergo life saving heart surgery. Kenya was 15 years old. Cherie who had experienced her mother undergoing heart surgery when she was 15; was suddenly a mother to a 15 year old requiring heart surgery.

Today, Cherie McAdam is a ‘matters of the heart’ advocate, raising awareness at every opportunity by sharing her story. She speaks to RHDAustralia about keeping resilient when your children have issues with their heart, but in particular with regards to ARF and RHD.

Life is good. Life is full of hope and the best is yet to come for these three children.

What advice would your share with other mothers?

A mother shares the heartbeat of her child so when something is wrong she knows it. If you feel it in your stomach that something is wrong, don't give up.

Leading up to her coronary heart failure, Kenya had eight cases of sore throat in the space of 12 months. I believe that had I known more about rheumatic heart disease, my children, particularly Kenya would not have had her heart attack.

Describe the impact ARF and RHD has had on your family?

Pressure. It causes extra strain on the family, financially and on the sufferer. Luke was hospitalized for six weeks and then spent the next 15 months getting back to his healthy state; and then my daughter Kenya had her heart attack. The pressures I was already experiencing, as a single parent to six kids was hard, but these two instances compounded it.

Unity. It brings family together in support of the sufferer. Kenya and Luke are also the two oldest out of my six kids. Their illness was a huge blow to our family unit, but everyone came together to support them.

Tenacity. When your child is sick it gives you a supernatural drive to not only look after them but other things going on in your family unit.

 

What have you learnt from your experiences?

I believe that had I known more about rheumatic heart disease, my children, particularly Kenya would not have had her heart attack. The clinic has made some changes to the way rheumatic fever is screened since my daughter was under diagnosed.

The positive is that I now use my story to raise awareness among health professionals about ARF and RHD. This is why I speak at forums. I want people working in this field to really look at the power in their hands and what can happen when they don't do their job properly.

What keeps you strong? 

I have faith in the Lord to sort things out. Today six years after everything that happened in such a short period of time – Mercii’s having a hole in her heart, Luke being hospitalised and Kenya undergoing heart surgery – I’m happy to say they are all living a full life.

  • Mercii now six is a very active child. She has won a little athletics competition.
  • Luke is continuing his specialities check-ups and ongoing treatment. He lives a full life and is very active in sports.
  • Kenya’s condition dictates that she will have bicillin shots for the rest of her life. But she has not let this stop her from living an independent and fulfilling life. She works in the Child Care industry and has her own flat.

Life is good. Life is full of hope and the best is yet to come for these three children.