How the ride saves lives

Heart disease is a major health issue in Far North Queensland, which has a larger-than-state-average percentage of both older and Indigenous residents, who are susceptible to developing cardiac problems.

The diagnosis and treatment of heart disease can also be challenging in the Far North, due to the number of remote communities that do not have ready access to specialised health services.

Even cardiac patients who live in the city of Cairns may find themselves compelled to leave home, family and friends, and travel to a hospital in Townsville or Brisbane to undergo a surgical procedure that Cairns Hospital is not currently equipped to handle.

But thanks to the Cardiac Challenge, things are changing.

The Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation is solely dedicated to raising funds to improve health care services for residents in this region. Since the charity launched the Cardiac Challenge in 2007, the event has raised more than $3 million to help improve cardiac care in the Far North.

Crucial medical equipment purchases and services funded by the Cardiac Challenge include:

Second Cardiac Catheter Laboratory at Cairns Hospital: In 2017, the Foundation announced it would contribute $1.4 million towards this important project. This matches $1.4 million that the State Government has announced it will put towards the facility. Together with funds raised from previous Cardiac Challenge rides, the Foundation raised the $1.4 million in a very short space of time, thanks to large donations from the community. The cardiac team will be able to do all the work it already is, such as angioplasties and other coronary procedures. But the second lab means they will be able to perform ablations of abnormal heart rhythms rather than send those patients to Townsville or Brisbane. They also will be able to implant life-saving implantable defibrillators into who people who need them – also saving them having to go to Townsville or Brisbane.

Echocardiography (ultrasound) system for young heart patients: purchased in 2013, this updated equipment assists the paediatric cardiologist at Cairns Hospital, who treats youngsters ranging in age from premature babies (one in every 100 children is born with a heart problem) to 18-year-olds. It provides higher quality images of children’s hearts, enabling more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Portable echocardiography system for young heart patients: purchased in 2011, this equipment enables the Cairns Hospital paediatric cardiologist to assess young patients in the field. Apart from congenital heart defects, most suffer from rheumatic heart disease, and the overwhelming majority (80-90 percent) of these cases are Indigenous children living in remote communities. Consequently, he conducts outreach clinics three to four times a year in places such as Weipa, Bamaga and Thursday Island.

Two intra-aortic balloon pumps: both the first pump, purchased in 2008, and a second portable model funded in 2013, were obtained for the Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory at Cairns Hospital, which handles patients with heart problems. These machines help failing hearts to pump more effectively and can improve the outcome for heart attack patients.

Lucas chest compression device: Purchased in 2015, this is a a lifesaving automated CPR system that can be used in the lab on critically ill heart attack patients who are at risk of having a cardiac arrest.

Bi-pap machine: Also bought in 2015, a bi-pap machine helps patients who are having trouble breathing because their hearts struggle to pump blood around their bodies.

Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic: launched in early 2012, this revolutionary clinic at Cairns Hospital reduced the waiting time to see a heart specialist from eight months to less than two weeks. It is the only treatment centre of its kind in Queensland and one of only two such facilities in Australia. More than 800 patients have been assessed, diagnosed and treated to date.

Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation

PO Box 957, Cairns, QLD, 4870
(07) 4226 6723
(07) 4226 6663