“I JUST feel I have a debt that I need to repay,” says Cardiac Challenge rider and cardiac arrest patient Kevin O’Donnell.
Mr O’Donnell, a Melbourne resident, is riding the fundraising event for a second time and is currently the second highest individual fundraiser.
Five years ago on August 7, Mr O’Donnell and wife Pat were holidaying in Port Douglas when he suffered an out-of-the-blue ventricular fibrillation. He was resuscitated in the ambulance, in Mossman Hospital and also in Cairns Hospital. An angiogram revealed he had a fully blocked diagonal artery. Due to complications, he spent six weeks in a coma in the intensive care unit at Cairns Hospital.
He underwent several surgeries, and was the first patient in Cairns to undergo an “ABRA” procedure – where the abdominal muscles are slowly brought back together around organs while retaining a physical barrier against bacteria.
Cairns Hospital staff surgeon Dr Nathan Brunott said Mr O’Donnell was a daily inspiration to him. “We’ve only used that procedure once since, to my knowledge but in those two cases they really made a difference to patient outcomes,” Dr Brunott said.
“I tell medicos down south now about my medical history and they are absolutely amazed that I am still alive, and that I made it through this process,” Mr O’Donnell, 69, said. In 2017, he approached the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation to make a donation, as he has every year since recovery when he visits on holidays.
On this visit, he found out about the Mount Franklin Cardiac Challenge and a couple of days later, returned to the Foundation office and said he wanted to ride.
He rode the event for the first time last year and is back again, this time with two friends from his Rotary club in Melbourne – one who is going to ride and another who is going to be a driver.
“I won’t rest until the team has reached $3000 and we’re up to $2681 so far,” he said on Tuesday. Part of his fundraising efforts have included busking using his tin whistle. “I’m not a great whistle player, by any stretch, but it’s a unique way to raise money and draw attention to the cause,” he said.
Foundation fundraising and marketing manager Glenys Duncombe said Mr O’Donnell epitomised the spirit of the ride and was actually one of many with a personal heart story.
“We know that we have a local community that is passionate about what we are trying to achieve, but stories like Kevin’s tell us that our amazing hospital staff are touching a much broader community as well,” Ms Duncombe said.
The Mount Franklin Cardiac Challenge is an annual bike ride from Cairns to Cooktown, raising funds for cardiac services in Far North Queensland. For further information visit HERE.