Mark and Jay O'Shea have shared how they overcame Mark’s congenital heart condition.
Mark and Jay O'Shea have shared how they overcame Mark’s congenital heart condition.

Singer defies heart-wrenching diagnosis to become international recording artist

At four years old, Dalby country music star Mark O’Shea was told he had the heart of an 80-year-old.

That’s the reality of life with a congenital heart disease, and a reality that Mr O’Shea and his wife, Jay, has had to come to terms with.

Mr O’Shea was diagnosed with tetralogy of fallot just weeks after he was born, when doctors found he had a heart murmur.

Initially, his mother was sent home from the hospital and told it would go away on its own.

Six months later, he had his first open heart surgery.

Mark O'Shea after his open heart surgery at six months old.
Mark O'Shea after his open heart surgery at six months old.

From there began a long and bumpy journey of constant check-ups, operations, and learning to live with a condition that would impact him for the rest of his life.

With the entire town of Dalby behind him, supporting him during his recovery, Mr O’Shea quickly bounced back and has the tight-knit community to thank for that.

“When my Dad asked for people with the same blood type as me to volunteer to give blood prior to my operation, he filled two 40 seat buses in minutes” he said.

“Friends and neighbours dropping off meals to someone in need is common practice and is just something that happens without question or an expectation of thanks.

“It’s Country Queensland.

“It’s just what you do.”

Mr O’Shea remembers one moment that nearly broke him as a young boy.

“When you’re a kid and you’re dealing with it, it’s just your life, so you don’t really know anything different and you just sort of get on with it really,” he said.

“But not being able to play football growing up was pretty tough.

“My brothers were all really good at sports and in small town Australia, football is a culture in unto itself.

“So it was a little tough missing out on that.

“Mum used to try to convince me that it wasn’t a big deal, but looking back on it, that was definitely a challenge.”

The decision that was devastating to Mr O’Shea at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he turned to music and performing as an outlet and discovered a real talent for the art.

Since then, the band he formed with his wife, O’SHEA, has toured 48 out of 50 US states, played gigs in most continents in the world, and travelled the globe sharing their talent.

In 2010, Mr O’Shea hit one more roadblock which resulted in a second open heart surgery.

Mrs O’Shea remembers after the surgery, her husband was too weak to even brush his teeth.

“We were just gaining momentum in Nashville and thought that meant that we would have to abandon our dream and come home to Australia,” she said.

“We were extremely lucky that that wasn’t the case.

“After the operation was the hardest.

“I think we both underestimated how hard and long the recovery would be.”

He has since recovered and their pair have continued writing, performing, and raising their two daughters.

February 14 is SweetHeart Day, which recognises congenital heart disease as one of the leading causes of death of Australian babies under one and one of the most common birth abnormality affecting one in every 100 births.

Mr and Mrs O’Shea offered advice for those suffering, and the supporters of those with the shocking condition.

“Be loving, patient and kind and be ready for a few bumps in the road,” Mrs O’Shea said.

“I think it’s important to always be able to talk freely about it, but to not make it a massive issue all the time.

“Honestly, most of the time we just get on with life and don’t think about it until it’s time for a heart scan.

“We’re lucky, we know.”

“Everybody has something that they’re dealing with, be it physical, mental or emotional,” Mr O’Shea said.

“I consider myself extremely fortunate and am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities and blessings I’ve been given.

“I guess what I’m saying is that there are plenty of people out there that have had a lot more to deal with in life than me.

“CHD has its challenges but there is 100 per cent no reason why it should hold you back from doing what you love.”

Originally published as Singer defies heart-wrenching diagnosis to become international recording artist


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