What makes for a healthy heart?
Well I’m inspired to share with you that dad’s heart attack although it was a surprise, is actually what causes and creates change. When you are contemplating how did this happen to me, it changes you.
I can’t speak for dad but I can speak for myself when I say I needed a shock too for change to happen in my life. And when you are met with the prospect of your mortality, that’s when you reflect and go wow, life really is precious.
My Aunty Margaret would always say this in her own way - your health is your wealth. Being healthy is so important to your quality of life. This is because she watched on and supported her brother who suffered a lot through his life with the failure of his kidney. He has passed on now but in some ways he is the reminder to take care of yourself no matter what.
So today I want to share with you some of dad bad habits so you might think twice about your daily habits. Because it’s about small changes that help us stay healthy.
Dad loves salted nuts and salty chips - doesn’t matter if we are talking about fish and chips or the ones in a packet. Salt is his favourite condiment. Sorry dad but it’s true.
The reason I’m writing this is to give people an understanding that this is/was the way he lived on a daily basis but if you catch it now you can moderately or dramatically change your behaviours so you don’t end up with a heart attack and heart disease. Ps I love my dad and it’s not about making him wrong but to show you simple things you can do.
So he would have a beer with salted beer nuts, packet of original salted chips. Guess what another disappointment for you but alcohol is not your friend. Yep it’s a another red flag for heart disease - alcohol.
It’s not just alcohol but it’s the level of consumption and amount of binge drinking that can also increase your risk for heart disease. One or two drinks daily, four drinks in one sitting is the way to change your habits if you want to be heart healthy.
Weekends were party time for dad sometimes so yes a few too many were often had. But even when he was younger a lot of drinking occurred. The culture said it was acceptable. It’s just the way it was. So cumulatively and over time your body just can’t handle it. I’m going to guess he drank too much. I bought him alcohol free beer last Christmas. Yes it’s a thing.
Fatty pork in the Chinese diet is another culprit. Well I don’t know about you, but we had lots of bacon. Always the rind was crackled. We had Chinese style Roast Pork with crackling. We had Roast Pork with crackling and apple sauce. We had BBQ Pork.
That’s a lot of fatty oils that is definitely not good for you. And it doesn’t matter how much Chinese tea you drink afterwards it’s definitely not going to ying and yang anything. It’s just something to become more aware of - what you are eating but also what fatty oils and fatty foods are you eating too much of?
Exercise. Dad was quite active. But it’s about activity that gets your heart moving and heart rate up for at least 30-60 minutes of activity and through the week too. I remember dad going to the gym when we were little but as an adult he had a home gym but not sure how much it got used.
Last year? I decided to run the heart foundations MyMarathon which is running a marathon over the month of October. I took up Park Run a few years ago. The first year of getting active, I started attending events to get me motivated like darkness to daylight, the jetty to jetty fun run , bridge to Brisbane etc
I believe in being a role model for my kids and family. Every now and then one of the kids will come along to Park Run with me. I’m yet to invite dad actually but I think I should! Dad come to Park Run - you can walk you don’t have to run!
And here’s the thing it’s never too late to start! I spoke to a regular park runner yesterday who shared with me she started proper exercise at age 59, and she participates in a University study now about the ageing brain. It was so interesting to hear from her. She ran through with a young whipper snapper and we celebrated that it doesn’t matter how old you are, the real win is the exercise you are doing for you.
Park Run is free you can go here to register https://www.parkrun.com.au/
Here is a link for Dad’s heart foundation donation page for his birthday but more than that you can find a ton of information and resources here. When October ticks around I hope you’ll join mymarathon.
My dad turns 80 this Sunday so I wanted to share some of his gold nuggets with you.
When I was little he used to tell me he could have been a photographer with the Sun Herald or do something else. Back then the something else meant the money was better initially. But he shakes his head in disbelief and always gives a chuckle about it. It was one of those forks in the road of his life, where he thought what could have been if he did choose to be a photographer instead?
That was his way of telling us kids to say yes to any opportunity that lay before us, even if we initially didn’t realise what might be possible.
His parents would tell them to get a job in the government and he would listen to their advice. He was with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a public servant, for most of his working career.
Before all that though, as a boy, he worked for his mum and dad making pasties, selling peanuts at pub corners. Later helping them to make chips, serving people at the fish and chip shop and mixed business. He was one of ten brothers and sisters growing up in and around business.
He took a trade as an electrician, worked as a furniture removalist and a taxi driver in Sydney. What a life. You can just image what he saw.
For the past 25 years he has helped mum and the family with our own businesses from a market stall in Rapid Creek, Darwin to Seafood Delites in Casuarina eatery and a market stall in Salisbury, Brisbane to Mamaku in Clayfield.
Also for the past 16 years, he has performed a number of times across tv, film and advertising and seen and met so many interesting people through being a extra. He has met Jodie Foster, Steve Irwin before he passed, Patrick Rafter, and many more.
He won the amateur competition for stand up comedian voted by professional comedians and cruise audience (what an honour!) on the P&O cruise (before cruising got hit with the curse of covid-19).
I’ll remember as I grew up he played golf every weekend. We lived on the 17th hole, well not on it but our house backed on to the golf course. I remember he told me that when they were kids they carved out their own golf clubs!
Every Saturday his religion is the TAB. He studies the racing guide like there is some kind of secret to unearth from it. He uses omens of names, numbers, jockeys or trainers. Ask him for a hot tip, he will always have one.
As a young man he used to train junior rugby league and he is deeply passionate about rugby league especially the Rabbitohs. The year they won, I’ll always remember him sitting with his brothers in the pub in Zetland, Sydney, watching on with tears welled up and cheering loudly.
He loves music. When I was growing up at least one of those days was cleaning day. He would crank up the tunes and clean and sing along. This is why I have such a huge range of songs I also like to play and sing along to. Imagine the Crooners and the broom or vacuum cleaner his dance partner!
He taught me a lot growing up. He would put us to bed each night and would make up a story off the top of his head. Every. Single. Night. During the day he knew I wanted to be a journalist somehow. He knew I had an obsession with Superman and Sixty minutes. He would make me read the newspaper out loud to him like a news broadcaster.
He would randomly make us spell words. He would teach us to break up the words with syllables. Say it out loud. Sound it out. He would take us to the library every weekend. I do this with and for my kids now too. We would spend the whole day there scouring the shelves for a hidden gem. It was almost like meditation in the library cos it was so quiet in there. We would take some books home after feeling like we had found gold.
We had this kid size microphone that we would sing songs into. Dad would pretend he was part of our band or he would be clapping as our audience. We all went through the keyboard phase. The recorder phase. I tried the clarinet at one stage there.
Dad was quite involved in the Chinese community from a young adult age. There’s one photo that stands out for me, he is marching in front holding a staff in front and leading the Lion Dance troupe down a street. Since then we have all been a part of Lion Dance and the Chung Wah hall as kids. When we moved to Brisbane dad found a hall in Sunnybank and my brother Darren started kungfu and Lion Dance there. My son Noah continues the tradition. Now we just have Lion heads scattered around our home, a Buddha head and makeshift drums.
The Lion Dance is a big part of our family tradition and culture. We all go every year to watch at least once. The drums go right through you. I remember each of my babies crying the first time they heard it but now always ask are we going. That’s absolutely dad’s influence. I have a picture of me sitting next to a Lion Head with the temple in the background, I’m probably 3-4 years of age. It’s a snippet cut out from a newspaper in my photo album.
He loves the beach. Coogee beach is his heart and home beach but nothing can come close to that for him. But I remember going to the beach almost every weekend also. In Darwin we didn’t know the difference until he introduced us to so many different beaches over the years. Once you’ve seen other beaches that actually have waves, you realise you must have been so little to be impressed by the Darwin beaches. Although Darwin was picturesque and we understand why dad picked it for a home for so long.
His dad was born there. But also it had such a laidback and friendly culture. That was dad to a tee.
See what I did there - tied it back to his love for golf. He loved golf because it was a challenge and each game was like a puzzle. You have to really learn patience on a golf course. He taught me how to play when I was 15. He taught us how to drive! He really learnt patience then.
He was and still is a larrikin. Having fun is his jam. Trying new things is his mantra. I know I’ve spoken about him like he’s no longer here but that was intentional so I could get all my words out.
He is very much alive and well and about to reach the big 8-0.
He helped me discover a love for writing. It started with writing letters to family. Now we share this love and I had to hound him to write his “This is your life”, but you don’t know how much it means, dad. So I’m going to write it here. When I tried to read your words out loud to the kids I began to cry. This is because we love you and don’t tell you enough every day. We are lucky to continue having you in our lives. Especially my kids.
We love you dad for who you are - all the parts that make you who you are and for the best parts that you gave to us all.
In the lead up to celebration of Willie Kee's 80th birthday, we will share a series of "This is your life" stories, written by us for him and maybe even some written by him.
Written by: Willie Kee
It was around February 2005 when I woke up in the morning with an acute pain in my chest and sweating a lot. I had dinner late the night before and thought it was indigestion so I asked my wife to get me some Quik-Eze.
However, the pain persisted and finally I consented to visit the doctor later that afternoon.
After a brief check-up, the doctor announced that I had had a heart attack! He proceeded to call a ambulance to take me to the hospital which was only 500 metres away.
A heart attack I thought - aren’t you supposed to keel over right away? Anyway I was 64 and didn’t smoke and always played sports so how could this happen?
There I was lying in Sunnybank Private Hospital with a pill stuck under my tongue to “help me breathe better” they said. After an overnight stay I was transferred to Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital due to something about my insurance.
There I was put through a test which involved pumping coloured dye into my veins and they could tell where the blockages were. Sometimes, if the arteries are not too blocked, a thing called a STENT can be inserted and this opens the vein up. But, mine were far gone so only a by-pass operation would work. An operation scheduled for about a couple of months later and I was sent home.
I remember it was Chinese New Year and I was helping out together with my son Darren, doing the rounds of the Lion Dance. We would pass the PA Hospital at night and I was dreading going there for the operation. I mentioned to the sifu (Master of Kungfu) about what was happening to me and he said "You are fit so don't worry you will be ok."
Luckily about a fortnight went by and I received a phone call to say a vacancy had come up and I could be operated on earlier. Before the operation I had to talk to the doctor about what they would do and he pulled no punches. He said they would cut the rib cage apart and the possibility I could die!
Operation day and Mie Mie dropped me off and after registering I was told to go to the pre-op room. There I was given a green hospital gown to wear and sat all alone waiting for someone to come. When you are in that room many thoughts run through your heard and suddenly you are in a wheelchair being gathered around a table. I think I found it amusing to see the face masks and gloves looking at me and then remember counting to ten (or trying to).
I told Mie Mie not to come to the hospital next day but when I woke, there she was with at least one of the kids. I was in ICU with a rod stuck down my throat and some things stuck in my stomach so not a pretty sight.
Not long after I was moved into a room with three other patients who had been operated on too. I was told I had a quadruple operation and a vein taken from my right leg to do this. I think they asked me before the operation which leg I wanted to get the vein from. A funny thing was the person who did the surgery on my leg, took great delight in bringing other nurses etc to take a look at how neat and straight the cut was healing!
The rod thing was taken out the next day I think and I was given a device that looked like a pipe with three small balls attached to it (like ping pong balls). The idea is to blow the pipe until you can get all three balls to jump up at once. Of course, to exercise your lungs because once your heart has been interfered with, a lot of phlegm builds up in your lungs. I remember the man next to me and we would be urging each other to do the exercise. The woman opposite us would just be reading a book and we kept asking her to join us to do the blowing but she said "later". Anyway, when the doctors came around to test us, the woman could not get one ball to and would start crying while she saw our three balls jumping up!
After two days, the stomach attachments were removed as well and they made us get out of bed and helped us walk to the toilet and have a shower. Then we had to walk up a steep flight of stairs. If we could walk up those stairs unassisted we could go home. It must have been on the fourth day I did it and was allowed to leave.
The main memory I had of being in the hospital was during the night, A nurse would come around with a torch light on her head and either gave me an injection or take my temperature. Then I would hear the clatter of high heel shoes walking away! I will always remember saying to myself, "why do they allow nurses to wear high heel shoes?"
It was a natural thing to be depressed after the operation and I did break down in tears one night while looking out the window. The night nurse who I suppose was used to this, embraced me for a while and told me I was ok.
I think the memory of the night nurses coming around and how such a great job they did was, the underlying reason I wanted to be a volunteer at the hospitals.
After going home I had to go for longs walks to get my lungs working. Month or two later I also had to attend physiology at the hospital where we did circuit training at their gym.
A couple of my sisters came up from Sydney to see if they could help out Mie Mie at the house so I am grateful to them while Mie Mie was so strong through out the whole ordeal.
When you get better, you think how long will I last now that I've been opened up as I read where some people needed another operation just two years later. Luckily I am still here 16 years later. I've travelled overseas on golf trips and played regularly after my operation and have been a volunteer at the PA Hospital for 5 years.
I took an interest in playing the Ukulele and perform sometimes at concerts and at the hospital and find it a relaxing thing to do.
So with my 80th birthday looming what do I think about?
Mostly, that my children and grandchildren have a wonderful life as I believe I have had. That my wife continues to put up with a cantankerous person who she met long ago and still give her love to.
I think about my brothers and sisters who have reached their eighties as well. Also, the ones who are younger and the brother who was taken from us much too young.
In an age of non-technology, the things we enjoyed as kids, the children of today will never have or do. Hopefully what they have now brings just as much joy.
I look back at decisions I made years ago when I decided to travel. Going to live in New Zealand, then leaving Sydney to go to Cairns but ended up in Darwin.
A 'snap' decision to get married and so lucky to have three wonderful children who care for me. To have three grandchildren to watch grow in to fine adults.
I have been to countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand and encourage the young ones to spread their wings and some day travel the world.
I have met some good people and many bad ones but that is life and you have to work them out and you will find who your real friends are.
I expect to go on for a few more years and hope to travel overseas with family or to another golf trip. The plan is to keep healthy and have faith that Covid-19 will be overcome sooner than later.
Some advice my mother always said, " always take a jacket or pullover with you when you go out and always carry some money in your pocket."
Another one was "keep active as long as you are mobile - don't just sit around in your old age,"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO EVERYONE"
We are a family of shopkeepers. We share our journey with the world, right from where we are. If we were to plot on a map where our family hails from, of course, the majority are from China and Indonesia, and now Australia, however we are still discovering the facts of our heritage so much is still unknown. We were raised in Darwin, Northern Territory, and when our ancestors arrived to Darwin, unfortunately, after the tropical cyclones Darwin is renowned for, a lot of our records disappeared. This journey we share is about documenting our lives now, for our next generations and also for providing the difference we want to make right now.