How a heart attack at age 24 inspired a health breakthrough
May 11, 2019

Harry Carpenter was at peak fitness, had spent two years training with Australia’s road cycling team and had just come fourth in the national Cyclo-cross championships when he had a heart attack.

The 24-year-old engineering student was so stunned he decided to use his misfortune to the advantage of others by focusing his PhD research on developing a model to accurately predict the onset of heart attacks.

“After I finished the race in Brisbane (in 2017) I was nauseous and dizzy and had chest pain, I couldn’t stand and friends rushed me to hospital,” he said.

“I was in the ED for a while and they did checks to make sure I’d not torn arteries which is what happened to a former coach of the Olympic team,” he said.

It turned out Harry was the victim of myocarditis, an inflamed heart muscle caused by a virus that had attacked his and prevented it pumping properly.

Harry Carpenter (yellow top) and Josh Harrison (Green top). Picture: SuppliedSource:News Limited

Prescribed blood thinners and five months of complete rest, the only thing he could exercise was his brain.

“I wanted to know if there was some way of predicting heart events,” he said.

“Is there a non-invasive test we could use to predict a heart attack using the biomechanics of the heart?” he said.

Two years later and thanks to a Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship which provided him with $120,000 to cover study abroad and his postgraduate studies The Adelaide University student is now developing a 3D model of the heart.

Using CT imaging of actual hearts taken in hospitals he is building a 3D computational model he can use to run simulations and predict when heart muscles will rupture.

The model will then be subjected to a range of different stressors to try and predict the effect on the hearts of individual patients and identify those likely to cause a heart attack.

The research involves analysing the mechanical properties of arteries through Fluid Structure Interaction.

“The hope is it will save lives and money. Heart attacks are one of the largest financial burdens in Western societies,” he said.

Eventually Harry carpenter hopes to be able to repdict the type of heart attack he experienced. Picture: Bianca De MarchiSource:News Corp Australia

Eventually Harry wants to adapt the model to take in the electrical system of the heart so he can investigate the type of heart attack he experienced.

News Corp in partnership with the Heart Foundation has been campaigning for new policies to slash deaths from heart disease.

Heart disease is Australia’s largest single cause of death and claims 51 lives per day.

As a result of our campaign from April 1, Australians aged over 45 have been able to get a comprehensive Heart Health Check from their doctor.

Harry is still taking part in local cycling races but is trying to achieve more balance in his life.

He says he’s lucky there is no permanent scarring in his heart but he does have athlete’s heart.

“It’s deformed and changed because of the exercise loads I put on it and there is tachycardia and arrhythmias,” he said.

Applications for Westpac’s Future Leaders this years scholarships close in June and can be made here: