An Inverell man who died in January has become the face of this year's Heart Foundation Christmas appeal which uses the campaign theme - help keep families together this Christmas.
Sisters Josie, Darcy, and Hannah, lost their father, Paul Witherdin when he had a heart attack that led to sudden cardiac arrest. He was just 53.
Paul was born in Inverell Hospital to Ian and Maureen Witherdin and was adored by his siblings Karen, Mark and Chrissie. All four children attended McIntyre High School.
The family say he loved his home-town, and although he went on to live in other towns and cities, he was laid to rest in Inverell -the place he called 'home.'
"Dad was not just 'another statistic'," says Hannah in the campaign ads.
"He was a brilliant father who lived a wonderful life - but his premature death ripped him away from our family."
At the time of his death, Paul, an engineer, was extremely fit and had just returned from a 10-kilometre run when he went into cardiac arrest and died.
Fighting back her tears in the campaign video, Darcy recalls the last time she saw her father when he went to Newcastle to compete in a couple of ocean swims.
"He went for a run early on Friday morning, and he just walked through the door and dropped dead," she said.
"Everyone saw him at Christmas and New Years, and he was just so full of life - it was the last thing we expected."
The Witherdin family found out Paul had died from a cardiac arrest but also that he had previously suffered a heart event, and about 40 percent of his heart was not functioning.
They say this was particularly shocking to them because Paul always ate well and took care of his health and saw a doctor when he needed to.
Because of Paul's healthy lifestyle, the message the Witherdin family want to share is that people need to have their heart health checked, no matter how they look or how fit they may appear.
"Our fervent wish is that in telling his story we may prevent others suffering," said his sister Karen who taught at Inverell High School for many years.
"In Inverell over Christmas, Paul had played tennis on the town courts with his siblings, remembered days in the local swimming club as he swam laps at the town pool and gone for long rides into the beautiful countryside he so loved," she said.
"This is not the public perception of those who die suddenly of heart attacks.
"Even more shocking, it was not his first. That had happened years before. Unrecognised, unknown, it had wreaked havoc so the second would be immediately fatal."
Heart attacks can be silent killers, and the role of genetics has often been ignored Karen stressed.
"The stereotype of a heart attack victim as overweight and unhealthy is a simplification of a complex issue," she said.
"Paul had been to his doctors regularly for check-ups, did not have blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes. There was history on his father's side, but he looked like his mother.
"Inside, he was a time bomb."
Paul Witherdin had the genetic patterning for early heart failure the family now know.
"You can't just eat well and exercise - your family history plays a big part in your risk of heart disease", said Darcy.
Karen said part of the reason for wanting to tell Paul's story is that her father and his brother both knew of their heart issues and had treatment, but he hadn't because he appeared to be very fit and healthy.
"I had been investigated because I am short and stocky, like dad, as was my sister," she said.
"Paul was six feet tall and weighed 70 kilograms. He was tall and athletically built like my mum. I have been very overweight and unfit at points in my life. And yet I am fine."
The Christmas appeal campaign launched last week and today the Heart Foundation released new figures that reveal the NSW regions with the highest and lowest rates of hospitalisations from heart attack.
According to the data, the New England and North West region, which includes Inverell, Tamworth, Armidale, Moree and Gunnedah, has the state's highest rate of deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD).
The region's death rate is 85.8 out of every 100,000 people, well above the state average of 64.5.
It is also nearly double the region with the lowest rate, North Sydney and Hornsby. Of the 10 NSW regions with the lowest CHD death rates, all are in metropolitan Sydney.
The heart disease mortality rate of Inverell residents is 103 out of every 100,000 people, which is significantly higher than both the state average and the national average of 66 per 100,000 persons.
To donate to the Heart Foundation Christmas appeal click here.