Chances are you have read about Kelly Landry recently.
The former model and television presenter is in the midst of a bitter marital dispute that has been played out in a Sydney courtroom and reported nationally. After an altercation at their home last year, police have taken out an AVO against her estranged husband Anthony Bell.
All manner of details from of her life with the man dubbed accountant to the stars and Sydney-to-Hobart winning skipper have been laid bare in the resulting proceedings.
The matter is currently adjourned and toxic doesn’t begin to cover it. And yet it doesn’t come close to the most difficult time in Landry’s life.
Being stuck in a hospital bed for four months, pregnant, feeling “like I was constantly running a marathon while breathing into a straw into a paper bag”, desperately hoping to get her baby to 37 weeks, was harder.
Getting through each day was a battle, she told a room of cardiologists and donors at a lunch hosted by the Heart Foundation in Sydney last week.
Congenital heart disease was the culprit: she was in the early stages of heart failure.
Landry was diagnosed with left ventricular non-compaction when she was pregnant with her first child. Since she was a young teenager she had experienced unusual heart palpitations and fatigue but these were variously put down to her athleticism, a busy load at school and stress.
Her first pregnancy proved otherwise: she would go for a walk and then have to sleep for the rest of the day.
“Halfway through first pregnancy I became incredibly and increasingly fatigued,” she said. “I thought, how do women do this? I must be so soft.”
She wasn’t. At 36 weeks she went into hospital and that’s when her heart condition was finally discovered and diagnosed.
In layman’s terms her heart doesn’t pump blood as effectively as it should.
In real life terms she carries with her the genuine fear that “sudden death or stroke” could strike at any time.
Every six months or so she updates letters she has written to both of her daughters, should “something ever happen”.
After her first daughter was safely delivered, Landry underwent surgery to insert a defibrillator as an “insurance policy” against her heart suddenly failing. She had done a lot of research and didn’t make the decision lightly, but it went awry.
“The life saving surgery very nearly took my life,” Landry explained. A nick in her artery meant it gave way: she developed a haematoma the size of a football on her chest.
The pain was “excruciating”, she lost four litres of blood, and woke up in intensive care two days later.
“There was no defibrillator but at least I was here,” she said.
Having another baby was a risk but it was one she was desperate to take and one that her doctors said was possible – if not optimal.
She fell pregnant again and got to 20 weeks before her heart - quite literally – started failing.
“I spent 4 months in hospital with a medical team who worked tirelessly to keep me and my baby alive. I was very determined to get to 37 weeks to give my baby the best opportunity in life.”
"I spent 4 months in hospital with a medical team who worked tirelessly to keep me and my baby alive"
It wasn’t easy but she got there and delivered a healthy baby girl, her second daughter, at 37 weeks.
She isn’t having anymore children, she will likely have a defibrillator inserted at some point and she has to take a variety of medications for her condition.
She knows her limits, tries to minimise “toxicity and stress” from her life and has to take it easy. “I can’t always be the mummy I want to be, because sometimes I do have to rest,” Landry said.
Before her marriage dissolved and became tabloid fodder Landry committed to working with the Heart Foundation to raise awareness of heart disease which is the biggest killer of Australian women.
She was booked last November to speak at Friday’s lunch, ahead of the foundation’s Making the Invisible Visible campaign launch in June. Given the events in the intervening six months, no one would have blamed her for cancelling.
But she didn’t. She turned up and she spoke eloquently, emotionally and frankly about the considerable battle she has waged with her heart. Like heart disease among women, it is not a story that is widely known.
And with Landry, this is the story of her life that ought to be making news.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women