AUSTRALIA: ‘I had a heart attack at 33. It made me question what difference I’d made in the world’

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By Busi Faulkner

When I left Zimbabwe to come to Australia, I had greener pastures in mind. I wanted a different life for myself, more opportunities, and to start a family.

I remember after being approved for my working visa as a registered nurse, excitement overcame me; this was it, I was finally able to make the leap!

When I arrived in Australia, I had not travelled a great deal before and was shocked by the reaction to my skin. People would stare at me in the streets, even touch me! It was 2004 and I was confused; I had never experienced anything like this before.

Despite some difficulties at the beginning, I eventually settled into my new home and before I knew it I was working at a hospital, gave birth to my first child and then fell pregnant with my second.

In 2013, 10 days after our second beautiful baby arrived my life changed forever. At just 33-years-old I had a heart attack.

I was overcome with indescribable pain; my body felt heavy and I knew something was wrong. I tried to push through but something, almost like a premonition or out of body experience, told me if I ignored this pain I would die.

My husband rushed me to the local hospital, where they gave me pain killers and told me it was nothing of concern, but that voice in the back of my head knew something was seriously wrong. I thought about how I had lost my mother and father at a young age and trauma and guilt overcame me as I thought of my children suffering the same fate.

With this in mind I tried for a second opinion but they couldn’t get me in with a specialist for a few days.

We lived remotely and decided to cut our losses and went to the Gold Coast to seek another opinion. This is when I was told I was in fact having a heart attack, after 30 hours of being in pain. The damage to my heart was so severe that he was astonished that I was still alive.

From that day everything changed. I went from being a healthy, 33-year-old woman with her whole life ahead of her and a newborn child, to no longer being able to take care of myself as I once could.

I knew as soon as I got better that I had to use this second chance at life to actually make a difference.

Having people come into my home to assist me was challenging. I felt ashamed and often degraded by judgment – probably because these care workers were used to servicing the elderly or visibly ill.

I thought to myself, what difference have I made in this world? And the answer was nothing. I knew as soon as I got better that I had to use this second chance at life to actually make a difference.

From this experience I started my business,

Home Care Nurses Australia

– a holistic home care service, free of judgment. A place for the people society rejects; and this has attracted a majority of clients with intellectual impairment and ‘high risk’ behaviours.

People with high risk behaviours can be aggressive, but most people just don’t know how to communicate with them. Some of them lip read and a carer might turn away while they are speaking. The person may hit them out of frustration that they can’t communicate. Because of this they are tainted as dangerous and often kicked out of places, even GP clinics, and chased out of their own home towns due to neighbourhood complaints.

I have taken the time to learn how to communicate with them and this significantly reduces incidents and can ultimately stop them from going down the wrong path or getting incarcerated.

As someone who knows what it is like to feel helpless, someone who lost trust in the healthcare system, I am proud to be a safe space for people with disability and I have made it my purpose to fight for their rightful place in society.