Heartbeat in South Australia is a voluntary organisation, incorporated in South Australia.
It provides a service to patients who have undergone cardiac surgery by providing reassurance to patients and their carers after surgery and ongoing support through local Branch meetings and social occasions.
Recognising that they have been given a second chance, patients and their carers are often pleased to be able to support other heart patients.
Provide information, assistance and reassurance to persons suffering from cardiac disease and their families.
Promote friendship between members through Branch Meetings and social functions.
Assist in raising funds for public Cardio-Thoracic Surgical Units, cardiac related facilities of other Public Hospitals and other non-profit making cardiac related bodies in SA.
In 1979, after having undergone successful open heart surgery at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Bert Hughes, a resident of Whyalla, decided to do something positive to repay the hospital and its staff for his “second chance”. With this in mind he placed an advertisement in a local paper asking ex-patients to contact him. His goal was to form a group to assist the Cardiac Thoracic Surgical Unit at the RAH in a financial way by raising funds for the purchase of equipment needed by staff. He believed this would enable staff to give the best possible care to patients. The first meeting of the group was held in January 1980 with fifteen ex-patients present and the Whyalla Branch was formed.
In 1981 Branches were formed in Broken Hill, Port Pirie and Mount Gambier and the Adelaide Southern Districts Branch was formed to support the Flinders Medical Centre. In 1981 Heartbeat became an incorporated body and the Association as it is now was formed. While still based in Whyalla, the Association Executive together with two delegates from each Branch formed the Committee of Management which meets three times each year.
More Branches were formed in 1982. Adelaide Central (supporting the RAH), Adelaide North Eastern (supporting Modbury Hospital) and Port Lincoln Branches began and in 1983 Adelaide Western (supporting the Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and Riverlands (supporting Loxton and Barmera) were started.
In 1985 the Association Executive became based in Adelaide. This gave the Association closer contact with the RAH and led to the use of the Hospital for meetings. The Association was also allotted a room in the Hospital as an office, which gave Heartbeat a more recognised postal address. 1985 also saw the formation of the Adelaide Plains Branch, which supported the Lyell McEwin Hospital.
During the next few years Heartbeat became more involved in reassurance work. Reassurance officers from each Branch visit people with cardiac problems and their families, not to offer medical advice, but to give them a chance to talk to someone who has been there and done that and is getting on with life. To someone facing open heart surgery, having a pacemaker fitted, or suffering from angina attacks this contact can be very comforting. This service is carried out not only in public hospitals but in some private hospitals which have cardiac units.
At the Annual General Meeting in 1987 it was decided to introduce a joining fee of $10 for new members of the Association. This fee covers both man/woman and partner and entitles the member to a lapel badge.
In 1989 South Coast Branch was formed to support the hospital at Victor Harbor. Also in 1989 the total funds raised by Heartbeat passed $1,000,000.
1990 was a very busy year for Heartbeat. Two more Branches were opened. The first was formed to support the Yorke Peninsula Regional Health Service at Wallaroo, while Gawler Branch was formed to support the Hutchinson Hospital. In June, the first National Conference of Heartbeat was held in Adelaide involving members from South Australia and Victoria. It was very successful and prompted plans to hold further Conferences on a regular basis.
In 1991, Murray Bridge Branch was formed, bringing the total to fifteen Branches. However Whyalla and North Eastern Branches were put into recess due to the lack of officers. Luckily both Branches reopened after three months. 1991 also saw a Branch formed in Alice Springs.
Two more Branches were formed in 1992, one at Mount Pleasant and the other at Clare. Due to lack of spare space Heartbeat lost its office at the RAH and now uses a room at Heartbeat House for meetings. The second National Conference was held at Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne with representatives from South Australia and Victoria attending.
During its history, Heartbeat South Australia has had up to 18 Branches at any one time. Unfortunately that number has reduced to its current level of 8 due to the passage of time with the associated aging of the members, especially the ones who have traditionally done the work. However, the reassurance function and the accommodation at Heartbeat House are still providing great support for cardiac patients and their families. The fundraising total has also passed $4 million.