Zahara Hargraves fatal heart disease began with a sore throat.

Zahara is only nine years old. She has advanced rheumatic heart disease, reports ABC.

It started with a simple sore throat and then a fever. The untreated illness damaged two of her heart valves.

“She was living in Katherine with her mum and that’s where she got really sick,” Grandma Lily Ngalmi-Hargraves says.

“She couldn’t play, she couldn’t move around.”

She has recently undergone open-heart surgery to have the valves repaired, and prevent her heart from failing.

Lily hopes the operation will mean her granddaughter will have a better future.

“It’s a very big day for me and her,” she says.

“I’m a bit frightened, but I need to get the little girl, get a new life.

“She is a brave girl, one of the bravest girls ever.”

Zahara’s surgeon, Associate Professor Christian Brizard, says it will give her the ability to be an active child again.

“She has a significant or severe mitral regurgitation between the low pressure chamber on the left side of the heart and the high pressure chamber on the left side of the heart,” he says.

“So that mitral valve is leaking, and if not treated it will leak more, and the heart will progressively enlarge more and more.

“We restore her heart to a normal size and shape, we restore the valve so that it does not leak.”

The Royal Children’s Hospital’s infectious diseases unit physician, Associate Professor Andrew Steer, says the disease is 100 per cent preventable.

“It occurs 80 times more commonly in Indigenous people, than in non-Indigenous people,” he says.

“If you treat a strep throat, you can prevent rheumatic heart disease in the future.”

Zahara is now on the road to recovery.

“She’s good, but she’s still sore and she misses the Top End. We both miss the Top End,” Lily says.

“We miss the sea, the salt water, the people.”

We wish Zahara a speedy recovery.

Share your comments below.

Image via ABC

  • A very educational story. I guess strep throught might be why strepcils are called strepcils


  • Gosh, am glad they received a diagnosis and treatment. It must have been scary not knowing what was going on there for a while.


  • it really is scary…glad shes been diagnosed and can be on the mend now


  • Unfortunately our indigenous people tend to not seek medical treatment as soon as they should, sometimes with tragic results. Sad as this is, maybe now they will seek treatment for any medical problems even if they think they are only mild. I hope Zahara makes a quick recovery and goes on to enjoy a normal life.


  • what a sad yet concerning story. wishing her every recovery xxx


  • Glad she got diagnosed in time and gets the treatment and care she needs. Hope you recover totally and soon Zahara !!


  • Remote medical care is problematic in Australia – so glad she was eventually diagnosed before things got even worse. Thankfully, she received a lifesaving operation and is getting better post surgery. Wishing her all the very best for a full recovery.


  • What a scare! I hope she will completely recover! All the best!!


  • How scary, Wishing her all the best!


  • Oh my goodness. That poor little girl.
    Imgladshe finally got treatment.


  • Am I reading this right? She got a throat infection that was left untreated and resulted in heart disease? And it’s 100% preventable! We really need to get done health professionals out into our remote areas and do sone educating! Thus is just tragic!


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