Victoria McGee hospital selfie

Victoria McGee's story with heart failure

Country singer Victoria McGee was just 28 years old when she was diagnosed with heart failure after years of misdiagnosis.

The young mum is now determined to raise awareness of the risk of heart disease for women across Australia.

Former X Factor star Victoria McGee was a healthy young singer who loved nothing more than performing around the country. But the country singer’s world came crashing down when she suffered severe heart failure at the age of 28.

Country singer Victoria McGee perfoming

“I didn’t expect it at that age, and I certainly didn’t expect it with the lifestyle that I lived so it was a big shock. Your heart is the engine of your whole body so it’s possibly the worst organ that can go on you,” says Victoria from Newcastle, NSW.

Victoria, whose son was three at the time, was then given just 18 months to live while waiting for a new heart.

“It was a roller coaster when you get told how long you have to live and then obviously the risks with the surgery, as well as not getting an organ in time,” she says.

It turned out Victoria had a severe form of cardiomyopathy which had been repeatedly misdiagnosed for 15 years. The birth of her son, Onyx, who is now seven years old, further weakened her heart.

Victoria McGee with her son

“I had been told I had everything from asthma to anxiety; but never a heart condition. I was told I was told I was "too young" to have a heart condition, and by the the time I was 28 I went into full heart failure.

“Then my doctor told me you’re a dead woman walking, the arrhythmias you had should have killed you. I could’ve just dropped dead where I stood,” she says.

Victoria spent the next four years being cared for by specialists at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. But, then her condition began to worsen, and she developed end-stage heart failure and was told she needed a heart transplant. Her operation took place just a few weeks later.

“The hardest decision I had to make was whether to wake my son up to say goodbye, or just kiss him and leave, not knowing if that was going to be the last time I saw him,” she recalls.

Recovery took about 18 months. Victoria, who is now back singing again, says: “I still feel very different from other healthy young mums. I get tired a lot easier, my daily medications are for life and all have their own 'special side effects', you adjust to a ‘new normal’. But I know I am very lucky to be alive and able to share my story with others.

“It’s important to listen to your body. I knew something was wrong but because of my age it was dismissed for years. Heart disease can affect all of us and we need to stop assuming it’s something that mainly affects older men.

“I want to ensure other women get diagnosed promptly so they don’t have to go through what I endured.”

Victoria now runs a patient support group called Together in Transplant, providing patients pre and post-transplant with support through lived experience. She is also an advocate for the Victor Chang Heart Health Tour.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years