Pictured: Helene Kay

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By Rachel Grunwell

Helene jokes she’s kind of like ‘A Bionic Woman’ – she’s in part made of titanium. But that won’t stop her from entering the Gazley Volkswagen Wellington Marathon event on June 18 and fundraising for The Heart Foundation .

The 59-year-old Kapiti Coast mum (and soon to be grandma) suffered from rheumatic heart disease a year ago. She was so overwhelmed by the care and help she received from The Heart Foundation, that she wants to “give back” now that she is well. She is raising money for the foundation by walking the 21km distance at the Wellington Marathon event and has so far raised over $2300.

Helene says her world was turned upside down last year. She had been feeling unwell, and just generally fatigued, but doctors couldn’t pinpoint why this was the case for quite some time. Finally she had an echocardiogram and doctors discovered she had rheumatic heart disease, which was traced back to having undiagnosed rheumatic fever when she was very young.

Two heart valves were failing and so she needed open heart surgery to replace these with mechanical valves. Hence, she reckons she’s a bit like the Bionic Woman (a series based on the adventures of Jamie Sommers, who is rebuilt bionically and goes on dangerous missions).

Helene’s heart ticks loudly with the mechanical parts and you can hear it if you stand close to her, she says. She jokes she will become ‘The Ticking Nana’ when she becomes a grandmother for the first time (her grandchild is due in June).

Since her health issue, she has been slowly rebuilding her strength and fitness and says an 8-week exercise course post surgery run by the foundation had been integral to her great recovery.

To get even stronger, she set the goal to walk the Wellington event so she can get back to her fitter self (she recently returned to work teaching exercise classes again). She says her goal for the event is simply to finish. And she’s ecstatic that one of her two sons, Devon, will join her on this mission.

She has fundraised the biggest amount for the foundation through this event to date – and credits this to some wonderfully generous friends.

She also hopes to raise awareness that people should seek help and get thorough check-ups when they are feeling unwell.

Helene wants to thank her husband Paul, and other family and friends who have helped her on her heart journey. She couldn’t have done it without them. She particularly credits friend Lyn for inspiring her to walk most days to help her on her journey back to wellness.

Helene is looking forward to reaching the finish-line at the Wellington event, saying “it will feel like the end of my rehabilitation and the beginning of a new me”.

  • Join Helene by entering the Wellington Marathon (and run or walk for charity too if you choose). Click HERE
  • If you’d like to sponsor Helene’s fundraiser click HERE. The Heart Foundation is NZ’s heart health charity leading the fight against heart disease. They fund research, promote healthy lifestyles and aim to advance cardiac care in NZ.


Blog penned by Rachel Grunwell: Writer, marathoner, Good magazine’s wellness columnist + smoothie chick & yoga teacher. Follow her via Inspired Health’s Facebook & Instagram for lifestyle inspo, recipes & giveaways.