Former ambulance officer Norm Burville has helped many people having heart attacks and taken many others to Portland District Health.
Now he’s experienced both from the other side as he recovers from triple bypass surgery and returns to good health with support from PDH’s transition care program (TCP).
The 72-year-old worked as an ambulance officer for 22 years, including 17 years in Portland.
Mr Burville had triple bypass surgery in late July in Geelong. “I thought I had gastric reflux and wasn’t going to do anything about it, but I couldn’t get rid of it,” he said. “I went to my GP and he sent me to the hospital for tests. Ten minutes later they came back and said I was having a heart attack.”
Mr Burville had suffered from gastric reflux for years and said the heart attack “was the mirror image of that”.
Angiograms showed various levels of blockages in his arteries, including one that was totally blocked. “I’m lucky to be here now,” he said.
After returning to Portland, Mr Burville was enrolled in PDH’s transition care program. “It helps so that when you leave hospital and get home you can lead as normal a life as possible,” he said.
“I thought it would be easy to get back to good health, but I was wrong. The anaesthetic knocks you around, but I’m getting better, getting stronger and my general fitness is coming back. Luckily, I haven’t any pain whatsoever.”
Mr Burville admits it will be “a long, hard struggle” but he expects to return home at the end of the 12-week program. “I won’t be 100 per cent; that could take 6 to 12 months, but I’d be lost without this program. I would have gone home and not be able to walk to the door and back.”
Transition care program case worker Terri Gull said TCP was for people over 65 who may have had a fall or medical incident and need time to recover before going home, or to consider aged care.
It is a low-intensity rehabilitation program with participants assessed by an occupational therapist and physio who continue working with them.
If they don’t meet their goals and it doesn’t look like they can get home, the TCP team will help coordinate the move to care.
“This gives them extra time,” Ms Gull said.
PDH has four government-funded beds for the program plus two community beds and can put in place short-term services for people returning home along with physio, OT and case worker visits.