Heart Disease

Zac back on the road again

21-year-old heart transplant recipient Zac Esso is back in training for Tour de Brisbane following a very generous gift from The Common Good partner CUA.

When he received his life-saving transplant in 2019, Zac set himself the goal of riding in the Tour de Brisbane, Australia’s premier ride supporting transplant research. Following his recovery from the surgery, training began in earnest for the 2020 ride.

COVID caused the cancellation of Tour de Brisbane 2020, so Zac focused on being as strong as possible for the 2021 edition. His efforts suffered a major setback when his bike broke, forcing him off the road and out of training.

Zac's fundraising for The Common Good got back on track when event partner CUA donated a brand-new road bike, and Zac is back on the road ahead of the April 11 event.

Zac said riding in Tour de Brisbane, and raising funds for The Common Good, is something he’s been aiming at for a long time.

“Transplant research conducted at The Prince Charles Hospital, funded by The Common Good is one of the reasons why I am still here,” said Zac.

“I am aiming to raise $10,000 for The Common Good’s research ahead of my ride. It all would have stopped though if I didn’t have a bike, so I am hugely grateful to CUA for this incredible gift. Thank you so much.”

Before he got sick, Zac was a regular teenage boy. He played cricket, football, rugby, soccer, ran cross country. Late one night, his Mum called the Home Doctor Service to treat a bout of tonsillitis for Zac. As he was leaving, the Doctor queried Zac’s heart murmur – a question that, after a series of follow up appointments, very much saved his life.

Zac was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. In the same month, he had a cardiac defibrillator implanted under his skin, and his first cardiac arrest during a treadmill stress test next to a cardiologist.

“It was exactly like in the movies where there was a big black hole with all my friends’ faces whizzing past, slowly getting smaller and smaller. It got to a small dot before it stopped and then my whole world sucked back into it. And that was me waking up and breathing again,” Zac recalls.

Zac had four more heart attacks before he put on the list for a heart transplant.

Zac’s mum Dionne remembers the exact moment he decided to ride for transplant research. "Prior to his transplant, he was in a very dark place. The doctor suggested he make some short and long-term goals for his mental health. We were sitting waiting for an appointment at the hospital and saw a poster promoting the Tour de Brisbane. He set that as a long-term goal, which at the time just seemed ridiculous," Dionne remembered.

“Once he got the heart, it was on for young and old. He was chomping at the bit to get to the rehab gym. He had decided quite a bit earlier that he was going to give back and fundraise,” said Dionne.

Zac is in training for the 2021 Tour de Brisbane, as his first long-term goal post heart transplant.

“I’m doing the tour de Brisbane for not only myself, as doing a ride for charity has been on my bucket list for many years now, but also for my donor. Every day that goes past is all thanks to them and I will make every day the best it can be. This one is for you,” Zac said.

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