Dawn Whitby has a heart of gold in every sense.
Despite having endured more than 100 hospital admissions and about 40 surgeries, the Jerrabomberra mother refuses to feel sorry for herself and points out that there might always be someone worse off than her.
But the 52-year-old's attitude isn't the only remarkable thing about her. She is also believed to be the first person in Australia to have received a gold-plated pacemaker. She has the device because of a titanium allergy.
Ms Whitby was 13-years-old when doctors discovered she had a complete heart block and she required a pacemaker.
It is estimated 14,000 pacemakers and 3,600 defibrillators are inserted into patients in Australia each year, according to data provided by the Heart Foundation.
Ms Whitby can laugh about it now, but she hasn't forgotten the tears when, after receiving her first pacemaker, she woke up attached to a large machine.
"It was actually the heart monitor but I thought it was the pacemaker. I cried and cried until somebody came and told me it wasn't the pacemaker," she said.
Ms Whitby said pacemakers generally needed replacing about every 8-10 years and she went through about four regular pacemakers before she started suffering from infections.
"It took them a long time to work out but it kept getting infected and it was because I had an allergy to the titanium pacemakers," she said.
"I was very sick from sepsis and one of the doctors gave me a drug to try and see if it would boost my immune system but then I got... what was like carbon monoxide poisoning and I ended up spending three months in hospital."
Ms Whitby was also diagnosed with epilepsy around the same time and her pacemaker was removed.
But she had been home from hospital only about a week when she had a serious car accident when her heart stopped.
"After the car accident, they realised I did need the pacemaker, it wasn't just the epilepsy," she said.
In 2005 Ms Whitby became the first in Australia to receive a gold-plated pacemaker manufactured by Medtronic.
The device is coated in gold rather than the usual titanium and was developed by Medtronic to meet the needs of a small number of patients.
A Medtronic spokeswoman said the devices functioned the same way and with the same clinical benefits as a regular pacemaker.
Despite the challenges she has faced, Ms Whitby has refused to let her health stop her from living her life to the fullest.
She met her partner Paul Nemes in 2010, her confidence grew and she found a new job in pathology which inspired her become a qualified phlebotomist.
She now works in the new cancer centre at the Canberra Hospital.
Ms Whitby and Mr Nemes are slowly ticking items off their bucket list, like completing the harbour bridge climb, parachuting and she has also become an avid dragonboater.
"You just get addicted. I love water as well. And I've also developed a lot of really close friendships," she said.
Mr Nemes is incredibly proud of his partner, saying she truly does have a heart of gold.
"Dawn has never once said 'why has this happened to me', not in the whole time I've known her," he said.
"Her mindset has always been 'there's somebody worse off than me'. The heart of gold isn't just the gold pacemaker - it's actually a truism. With Dawn, it's always more about other people than about her."
Ms Whitby admits she does have hard days, but doesn't want those to hold her back.
"Now, I'm going to have a go at everything I can," she chuckles.
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