Supporting our residents through strong partnerships: How Homeless Healthcare saved Kerry’s life

June 15, 2023

Kerry was born with a heart murmur, so she knew from an early age that her heart worked differently, but it wasn’t until last year that the condition began to affect her daily life. Kerry regularly experienced chest pains, shortness of breath, and dizziness. She had no idea that a local support service was about to save her life.  

Foundation Housing partner with Homeless Healthcare to provide weekly consultations at Newcastle Lodge, where Kerry lives. Homeless Healthcare provide primary healthcare services to marginalised people or those experiencing homelessness. Their vision is “for people experiencing homelessness to have improved health and wellbeing, housing appropriate to their individual needs and hope for the future.”   

Kerry visited the Homeless Healthcare team because her symptoms continued to persist and it was a convenient option for her to be seen so close to home.  

“It was so good that I was able to go for a check-up in my own building. I wouldn’t have seen them if Foundation Housing hadn’t arranged for them to come,” she said. 

Her blood was drawn and she was assessed. Her heart murmur was suspected as the cause of her feeling so weak and unwell. As a result, Kerry went on her way until the blood results were received.    

However, a week before Christmas, Kerry was in Perth City watching the festive lights when a dizzy spell caught her off guard and she nearly collapsed. After some deliberation, a member of the public notified local Police of Kerry’s health condition and an ambulance was called and she was taken to the hospital. 

After waiting a long time and a few assessments, Kerry was about to be dismissed by the doctor for indigestion issues when a nurse on nightshift in the emergency department overheard Kerry’s voice and recognised it; she was also the nurse that assisted Kerry at Homeless Healthcare. Remembering that Kerry had a heart murmur and was still waiting for blood results, she was able to help Kerry see a cardiologist.  

Kerry received more testing and eventually was admitted; the hospital did not want to discharge her without getting to the problem of her symptoms. However, Kerry wanted to be home for Christmas and decided to take her medicine and go home.  

However, Kerry was a bit too ambitious and Christmas day came, then Christmas night and she was in so much pain; her dizzy spills were becoming very heavy, so she had to call an ambulance for herself. That night at the hospital, they discovered that her heart murmur was connected to her heart valves and was making her heart have to work a lot harder to push blood. She spent 2 weeks in the hospital getting more tests until the doctor finally said, “we are going to have to cut you open.” 

Kerry was eventually transported to another hospital for surgery and was in the operating theatre for over 14 hours. The surgeons were able to repair her heart valve and restore it back to a normal state. The doctor looking after Kerry said, “if you had not gone into surgery when you did, your valve could have failed anytime and you would have gone into cardiac arrest and died.” 

It was at this moment that Kerry realised that if it wasn’t for Homeless Healthcare’s services and support, she wouldn’t be here today. “I knew nothing about Homeless Healthcare before they visited the Lodge. I can’t thank them enough because I would not have gotten the help I needed for myself; they saved me. Words just aren’t enough” she says.  

Kerry now continues to receive regular check-ups with Homeless Healthcare and her heart valve is working exactly as it should be. Even better, Kerry is no longer experiencing any symptoms and is not in any pain. She is alive and well; but she might not have been.  “I can’t believe how close I was to death. I wake up and thank Homeless Healthcare every day and it still will never be enough. I know they are just doing their job, but they saved my life,” she says. 

We asked Kerry if she had any advice to give to others after her experience. She said, “don’t be scared to see a health service such as Homeless Healthcare and don’t underestimate your symptoms. I never thought I was close to death, but I was.” 

Foundation Housing is proud to partner with healthcare organisations, like Homeless Healthcare, to equip tenants and residents with the services and support they need. Thousands of people are helped every year by support services in Australia; Kerry is one of them.  




Homeless Healthcare and Kerry, Newcastle Lodge.

Kerry, Newcastle Lodge.