SIX year old Eli Hack of Wangaratta, who has undergone three heart surgeries, has been inspired by adventurer and heart surgery patient Jeremy Scott. Jeremy will visit the North East this weekend for an event organised by Wangaratta and Benalla Heartkids. Eli hopes others will come along and hear more about Jeremy’s story, and also be inspired by his drive to overcome obstacles.
An adventurous heart surgery patient who has inspired a young Wangaratta boy to follow his dreams will visit the region this weekend.
Jeremy Scott became something of a role model for six year old Eli Hack after visiting the rural city for a speaking engagement earlier this year, where he discussed his book, ‘The Long Road from a Broken Heart’.
The book details his two and a half year, 51,916km solo bike ride around the world, after which he dedicated his life to inspiring others.
He did just that for Wangaratta mother Lisa Dekeling, who attended Jeremy’s talk to glean some pearls of wisdom for her young son, Eli, who has undergone three heart surgeries in his six years.
“Jeremy was the most amazing, inspirational speaker, and had this brilliant coffee table book, which I bought, and he wrote a message in it – ‘To Eli, heart surgery can be a stepping stone to a beautiful life; dream and believe’,” Lisa said.
“It was wonderful to hear that even though he has a heart condition, he can go on these grand adventures.”
As regional coordinator of Wangaratta and Benalla region Heartkids, Lisa decided to bring Jeremy back to the North East to share his story and inspire not only heart patients and their families, but the wider community.
The event will be held at the Albury City Library on Saturday from 3pm, with Heartkids families free and entry by donation for other people interested in attending.
“Our main goal is to inspire other Heartkids families, but it would also appeal to people who just love adventure and bike riding; it’s applicable to so many people,” Lisa said.
Jeremy, who was born with a hole in his aorta valve and underwent open heart surgery at the age of four, has raised more than $50,000 for the Australian, New Zealand and British Heart Foundations.
His story is encouraging for Lisa, as the mum of a Heartkid, and for Eli, whose heart defect was detected during pregnancy.
“After having four completely healthy babies (Eli is the fifth of Lisa’s six children), I assumed it would always be that way, so it was a shock to find out there was something wrong,” Lisa said.
“Eli had to be born at the Monash Medical Centre, and surprised everyone when he came out pink and screaming.”
While a healthy heart has four chambers and two arteries, Eli’s heart had three chambers and one artery.
“His heart defects were working together as a newborn, so it was decided that it was best for him to go home and get older and stronger before heart surgery,” Lisa said.
Eli underwent his first surgery at three months of age, focused on establishing a good supply of blood to his heart.
“It was very scary; they talk to you about the risk of death and brain damage, and I distinctly remember wanting to grab my baby and run away, because he looked fine, but in- side he wasn’t,” Lisa said.
“They went in through his chest, and we waited all day, then the surgeon told us it was not successful, and asked for permission to go in through his back, which was successful.
“Eli had another surgery at seven months, as his oxygen levels had dropped to 70 per cent.
“He was becoming more active and needed more oxygen, but his heart couldn’t keep up, so he had some ‘replumbing’ done.
“The surgery when he was three years old was the scariest one.
“We were in the front yard at home and he became very distressed and I couldn’t figure out why, and when I picked him up, his body went limp and his eyes rolled back; I thought it was the end.”
Eli was taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) by air ambulance, and had a bovine valve replacement; he also has gortex in the centre of his heart to create the four chambers.
Doctors regularly monitor his condition as he grows, and Eli is due back at the RCH in June for a check-up.
“It is a challenge for a six year old, because if your friends are all running around, you want to as well,” Lisa said.
Now in grade one at St Patrick’s Primary School, Eli is reminded by teachers to take it easy if he becomes breathless.
“He’s accepting of his hospital appointments, even though it’s quite intensive when he has a check-up,” Lisa said.
She said Heartkids was an invaluable connection, with the local group holding catch-ups every three months, and encouraging young people to achieve their best regardless of obstacles.
“We’ve come so far in medical care that most of the children with heart conditions are facing a whole new frontier,” she said.
Lisa encouraged anyone keen to be inspired by the resilience of these young people, and the story of Jeremy Scott, to be at the Albury City Library in Kiewa Street on Saturday afternoon from 3pm to 5pm.
Further information about the event can be found at https://www. eventbrite.com/e/heartkids-presentsthe-long-road-from-a-broken-hearttickets-44746070702.
SPEAKING FROM THE HEART: Six year old Eli Hack, and mum Lisa Dekeling, hope locals take the chance to attend a presentation at the Albury City Library on Saturday by Jeremy Scott, author of ‘The Long Road from a Broken Heart’.