John's story
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John's story

By John

I was 55 years old and working full time with my wife Lorraine as a very active antique dealer when my life was changed forever.

Eight months prior, while fishing at Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains I suffered a massive heart attack, leaving me with only 13% pumping capacity in the heart. Needless to say that made breathing extremely difficult. I was placed on the transplant waiting list which subsequently saved my life.

At the time neither of us had any experience or knowledge of transplantation. A Pastoral Care Worker spent time talking with me, and two days before my transplant she came to me and said that she lived with a group of retired nuns and as they were 'awfully powerful prayers', would I mind if she asked them to pray for me. My words were 'Go ahead Sister. I need all the help I can get.' Two days later it happened. Was it a co-incidence?

All through the transplant work-up, operation and recovery, the importance of the patient's carer was heavily emphasised and I was fortunate in having a loving and caring wife and family to look after me. It takes an enormous toll on a person's loved ones as well.

The Heart Lung Clinic became our second home until with time in the gym, heart biopsies, a minor dose of RSV and general check-ups, I was able to return home.

After the transplant I was told that I was the 1000th transplant at the hospital and that they would like to celebrate the occasion with a Press Conference and presentation. It was a momentous occasion for me and my family, meeting Fiona Coote, our most celebrated transplant recipient.

Back home and I returned to work with only a few minor health problems. With both my daughters working in the local hospital it was inevitable that I would meet with the Organ Donor Co-ordinator. She was a great inspiration to me with her tireless work and I did all I could to support her program and promote organ donation. She was responsible for my appointment to the Organ Donor Task Force in which I worked for three years on a voluntary basis giving me a greater insight into the medical and legal side of organ donation.

It was my pleasure to be involved in the conversion of a room in ICU at The Canberra Hospital for the use of relatives of prospective organ donors. A first in any hospital in Australia and since its opening it has been very well used.

What has a generous and grieving family and the transplant given me? To start with it gave me life. Ten years I would not have had. Three more grandchildren and I have seen my eldest granddaughter get engaged. So far three good years of retirement with many more to come.