WHEN Fred Blakey’s cardiologist picked up a heart valve problem due to a rheumatic heart condition more than 30 years ago, he knew he was facing some serious work on his heart over the coming years.
“Dad had several heart related procedures over the years, his first aortic valve replacement was done over 30 years ago in Brisbane.  The second was done in Townsville and then a large abdominal aneurysm was repaired in 2013 in Cairns Hospital,” his daughter Allison Sciani said. This motivated his bike crazy family to don their helmets and jump on their bikes for the annual Mt Franklin Cardiac Challenge.  We love that through the fundraising done by the participants of the Cardiac Challenge less people will have to leave their loved ones and the district in order to have certain procedures.
“I always love a challenge, so after completing a Get Out and Get Active course for ladies and bikes earlier this year, I decided it was time to do the Cardiac Challenge,” Ms Sciani said.  “David, one of my boys was in on the idea and then Nathan decided he’d jump back on the bike after a serious break to his femur in a bike accident last year.  Not to be outdone by her brothers, Katia decided that she would join the team after we had the loss of Dad – our father and grandfather – on June 4 this year. As our support crew, we have my husband and their father Henry, making sure we are looked after along the way.  The boys’ wives will most likely be registered as volunteers and so we have the entire family throwing their weight behind this Challenge.  Excited great grandchildren also will be waiting in Cooktown ready to cheer on the family when they roll in on the last day.
“Mum always accompanied Dad for the treatment as we were all very busy with our work and young families, however it was always hard on her as there was no support for her.  I did accompany her on the second valve replacement that Dad required, which she really appreciated but family support is the key to a good recovery with this big stuff. Dad did know that we were doing the Cardiac Challenge and was very appreciative that we were able to give back to the hospital that had given him so much in treatment over the years, on his behalf.”
The Sciani family is part of the Mareeba team “Are We There Yet”.  So far this year, the team has raised $4775 and is confident of more to come over the coming weeks.
The Mt Franklin Cardiac Challenge will be held for the 12th time this September and is an annual journey from Cairns to Cooktown, hosted by the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation.
Instigated by heart patient Pete McNally, the event has raised more than $3.6 million for cardiac services in the Far North and this year will be funding a new Vivid Echocardiogram machine.
Foundation fundraising and marketing manager Glenys Duncombe said every year the community rallied behind its heart patients, through the Cardiac Challenge. “This family is like so so many here who have been affected by heart conditions – my own included. But the great thing about the Cardiac Challenge, aside from the camaraderie and friends formed, is that all the money stays local and every cent goes towards its intended cause,” Ms Duncombe said.