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Behind the front, Fiona is all heart

Date: 29/08/1999
Words: 571
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: News
Page: 39
SHE can light up a room with a single smile, but behind the determinedly bright and bubbly exterior she wears in public, life isn't always as easy for heart transplant survivor Fiona Coote as she makes it look.

For behind the cheerful face brave Ms Coote wears for those around her, sometimes everything can be a struggle.

From her solitary walks up and down the promenade of the beach close to where she lives in order to keep up the levels of fitness critical to her continued health, to the difficulties of eating out when there areso many foods she has to avoid, life can be much tougher for Fiona thananyone could guess.

"If I'm not as fit as I should be, that's when things start to tell," said Ms Coote, in a rare moment of candour as she gears up to help WhiteRose Day on Tuesday raise funds for heart research.

"There are times when I can't do as much as I want to, times when I have to stop."

Not that Ms Coote, 29, is complaining - she would never do that.

It's just that sometimes it's impossible to hide how her life has beencompletely transformed since her two transplant operations, her first at age 14.

As a child, she planned to stay in her hometown of Tamworth andhave a career, now she can only work part-time - "very part-time," shelaughs - doing endorsements for Dairy Farmers and helping with herfavourite charities.

Does she miss not having the chance of a full-time career? Shehesitates before answering.

"Sometimes I think I would." She brightens, suddenly. "But then after awhile, the thought does go away.

"My lifestyle is so great. I have time to go and spend with friends andfamily and spend weekends out of Sydney."

Naturally, there are difficulties.

Ms Coote now takes up to ten medicationsa day, is banned from drinking even a simple cup of coffee, and can'teat meat, sugar or any saturated fats.

She also has to be careful to walk up a little local hill often four times a day to make sure she keeps her heart as fit as it can be. Her husband, advertising executive Ian Elliot, keeps a close protective eye on her always.

Doctors say she may be able to have children at some point, but nowshe's not even thinking about that.

Instead, she's busy planning a big party for her 30th birthday justafter New Year's Eve - a birthday she never thought she would see

And she is concentrating on helping promote White Rose Day so many more Australianscan have the second chance at life she's had.

Most, indeed, will have a much more comfortable time too. "There are somany procedures available now that weren't available years ago thataren't so invasive," she said. "Recovery times are much quicker andthere are better outcomes with drugs that aren't so toxic."

* White Rose Day raises money for heart disease and is celebrated on August 31. White Rose pins are on sale at newsagencies around the country for $2.

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