Shock diagnosis that changed Harry’s life
BEING a local voice for mental health awareness has been a long-term passion for Gympie footballer Harry Johnston, but a health scare has added a personal touch this time around.
Mr Johnston, a strong supporter of the Movember foundation, has jumped on board for the 12th year in a row with a funding goal of $1411, “to represent all the men who take their own lives, due to mental health issues, during the months of October to December”.
Getting regular health checks is the other main message coming from the Gympie United Gladiator, who found life as he knew it turned upside down by a shock heart diagnosis earlier this year.
“In 2018 … I went in for a check-up and I found out I had a heart murmur,” he said.
“Six months later I started getting a few chest pains, and they put me on an ECG and found out I’ve actually got a bicuspid valve (an aortic valve that only has two leaflets, instead of three).
“I went back to get it checked out and I actually had severe leakage, and had to stop playing in July this year, which could have resulted in me collapsing on the soccer field if I kept going.
“It was a bit of a wild week when I found out. I hadn’t had any symptoms or loss of breath or pains in the chest. Later that week I had my birthday and then I got engaged.
“It’s OK for me to do exercise now, just not high intensity, and it’s inevitable that I’ll have to get open heart surgery, it’s pretty full on.”
While Mr Johnston hopes he can eventually return to the football pitch, his personal experience with a health scare has helped him see the importance of prioritising mental health through a new lens.
“That’s why I’ve dug in this year and I’ve been making a pretty big deal about it, chatting to some mates and encouraging them to go and get a health check if they’re not feeling right,” he said.
“With mental health there’s a lot of people doing it tough in these times, so it’s good to get out there and share the love and tell people it’s not weak to speak.
“Mental health could take any form.
“It’s a big relief off your shoulders when you realise you’re not alone, and you’ve got mates there to help you along the way.”
So far, $900 of Mr Johnston’s goal has been reached, while the “Mo Bro” team made up of his Sherriff Electrical Gympie co-workers has raised a collective $1690 of a $3000 goal.
And this year’s efforts will culminate in Mr Johnston’s “Have a Larry with Harry” event next Friday night, organised in partnership with Jarrod and Lauren Dangley of The Bunker Smokehouse and Bar and Your Mates Brewing Co.
Every sale of the Your Mates “Larry” Pale Ale will result in a 50c donation from The Bunker toward Mr Johnston’s Movember fund.
“We’re going to have a few beers, have a feed and try and do some raffles to raise money and awareness for the foundation,” Mr Johnston said.
What: Have a Larry with Harry
When: 5pm on November 20, 2020
Where: Bunker Smokehouse and Bar
Jarrod will donate 50c from every Larry Pale Ale sold to the Movember Foundation.
There will be a Meat Tray and Fruit/Veg tray up for raffle.