Rheumatic heart disease

Rheumatic heart disease

Two days before school holidays, Tieandra started complaining about her hips aching and hurting that night. I thought it was nothing because
the next day she’d just get up and play around. I thought she was just trying to get off school. So we know across the board
Aboriginal people have much poorer health status than other Australians,
this manifests itself in a whole range of conditions and inequalities that we
focus on. One diseases that Aboriginal people almost exclusively suffer in this country, in modern contemporary Australia is Rheumatic Heart Disease. When the School holidays started, she started complaining more at night. One morning she woke up and she couldn’t walk. I took her to the doctors and they sent us to Port Lincoln for X-rays I had to book another doctor, and they said after the X-rays there was nothing wrong with her. So we just went back home thought
nothing was wrong with her. A couple of weeks after Tieandra was getting paler, so I took Tieandra back to the hospital. Then the doctor said that there was something wrong with Tieandra’s heart. I saw the heart X-ray and I knew it wasn’t normal for a kid to have such a big heart like that. So I knew something was really wrong. Then they flew her to Adelaide – and I knew something was really, really wrong. Rheumatic Heart Disease is largely a consequence of multiple bouts of infections with Group A Streptococcus which is a bacteria that
can get into your upper airways, nose and in your throat and if you have repeated or recurrent events that don’t get treated with antibiotics, you can get
cumulative damage on the heart particularly the heart valves. Like in any pump, these control the flow of blood around the body. If the valve doesn’t work the heart can leak and blood goes the wrong way. It shouldn’t only be doctors that know of murmurs on the heart. It should be all workers, Aboriginal workers, health workers They should all know about it. Sometimes there’s not even
doctors at Aboriginal Health. It just made me upset that it took me three doctors, when the first doctor should have known. She probably wouldn’t have needed the surgery. One of the important parts of dealing with
Rheumatic Heart Disease is to stop these recurrent infections in the throat, from
causing long-term damage to their heart. The best thing we can do is identify
it early and treat it. Group A Streptococcus that’s in somebody’s throat you can treat with antibiotics very readily. So making sure that you are thinking
Rheumatic Fever, managing that appropriately is a really good way of
preventing further development of disease. If somebody develops rheumatic fever, so therefore they have the consequences of the infection, those children need to go on long term therapy with what we would
call prophylactic antibiotics or antibiotics that stop the acquisition of
the bug to cause more damage. It’s a very simple intervention, a needle once a month or once every four weeks. The last area we focus on
is once people have damage to their heart, how do we stop it getting worse. How do we stop the damage to the valve of the heart or the heart itself which can
require surgery. That means good care, regular follow-ups, take your antibiotic prophylaxis regularly, and make sure you keep an eye on the general health status. She might need another operation when
she’s older but at the moment she’s doing really good. Took me three doctors, but if the first one knew about it maybe she wouldn’t have needed an operation. Maybe they would’ve caught it early and just given needles. Whether you are working in Adelaide or in remote South Australia, you need to know what to do if someone presents to you with Rheumatic Fever or Rheumatic Heart Disease. There are many resources available to increase your knowledge on ARF and RHD, and to assist with education of patients and their
families and other health care staff. You can access these from the RHD Australia and Sa Health websites

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