Cardiac trauma softened with a gentle brushstroke

HE only said two words and pointed to his chest, but the nurse at Dandenong Hospital instinctively knew what Nelus Oana was saying.

Mr Oana, 54, was rushed in to see a doctor who later found a 90 per cent blockage in his coronary artery. He was having a heart attack.

The diagnosis was a shock for the construction worker and recreational painter who had exercised regularly and did not smoke or drink.

"I had never had any signs before the actual event," he said. "I was very fit."

But on a Friday in February 2011, he felt an immense pressure on his chest and knew something was wrong.

His wife of four years, Andra, went with him to the hospital and doctors put a stent in one of his arteries.

His recovery meant taking time off work, but for Mr Oana, who has been painting for the past 30 years, it was a welcome break that turned into the best few months of his life.

Since the heart attack, the Noble Park resident has produced dozens of paintings, one of which he has donated to MonashHeart.

"I wanted to do something, to give something back to my hospital, the staff who looked after me," Oana said. "What can you do better than what you know best?"

The artwork, which he has named Heart Attack, depicts two trees on a sunny day being battered by a twister with a giant heart in the middle.

He said the twister represented the heart attack that almost tore him and his wife apart.

It will be part of the Heart Art 2013 exhibition at MonashHeart in Clayton. The exhibition is a tribute to survivors of heart disease.

To date, Mr Oana has painted about 50 artworks, hoping to raise money for the hospital from his art auction — named 'There is life after heart attack'.

"All the profits from the exhibition will be given to MonashHeart," he said.

In the meantime, he encouraged locals to take the time to examine their lifestyles.

"If you don't change your lifestyle, if you don't take your medication, and if you don't keep in touch with your doctor, you'll run into trouble sooner or later."

Heart Art opens at the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton on February 12. Details: monashheart.org.au.

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