Transplant No. 565
My story began in 1996 when I became ill at the doctors' surgery. I collapsed on the surgery floor and woke up on a nebuliser with oxygen being administered. That was in August and after the normal antibiotics for pneumonia etc it became evident that I was not going to get any better.
I was referred to Dr Mark Holmes who was at one of the local hospitals and he has looked after me from that time until 3 years ago. He began seeing me in 1997 both at the local hospital and later at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Adelaide.
I was diagnosed with COPD with no hope of recovery. In around September/August of 1997 the subject of transplantation was discussed and after a battery of tests here and at the Alfred, I was listed in December. I was 49 at the time. My condition deteriorated quite rapidly and I was on oxygen 24/7 and virtually housebound.
The emotions ranged from despair to inadequacy, a loss of purpose, grief, and generally a feeling of not being worth very much at all. I knew I was a drain on my wife but she took it in her stride and stood by me all the way. We began the long wait for the phone call that would change my life.
That call came on Sept 7th 1998, 3 days after my 50th. It was fairly late at night and both my wife and myself were ambulanced to Adelaide Airport for the RFDS flight to Essendon. A long flight and then ambulanced to the Alfred where I was X-rayed, showered, shaved and made ready for the transplant. Just as I was to have my first lot of medication, Greg Snell came and told us that the donated organs were not suitable for transplant so the operation was not going ahead. We had been warned that this could happen but we were not prepared for this bad news.
We were flown home the next day on a commercial flight. It seems I was devastated although I don't remember much about the next few weeks. I went downhill quickly if my wife is to be believed but another call came on Friday night 25th September bought us back to reality. 11pm and the whole thing started again. My operation began around 5am on Saturday 26th September and I was up watching the Rugby League grand final in the general ward on Sunday 27th September.
My stay in ICU was one of the shortest the team had seen after a single lung Tx and I went from strength to strength recovery wise. One small bout of MRSA still didn't put me down and I came back to Adelaide on December 13th in time to celebrate Xmas with my children and 2 grandchildren.
It wasn't long before I was back 10 pin bowling, I joined Transplant Australia, SA Division becoming President for a short while and I met transplant recipients of all kinds over the next few years. I couldn't go back to my line of work so in 2001 I went back to school and attained my Certificate III in Disability and Aged Care and began working with the disabled. I managed to keep this up until 2006 when I became ill with chronic rejection and had to give up work again. No regrets, I would do it all again. I dedicate this story to the wonderful staff at the Alfred and to all those at the RAH who have helped both my wife and me along a long journey.
The staff at the Alfred were
Dr Julian Smith - surgeon, Greg Snell, Tom Kotsimbos, Anne Griffiths, Louise McFarlane, Sue Tamblyn and the great nursing
The staff at the RAH were
Dr Mark Holmes (now Professor Mark Holmes), Rosie Day, Mary Kelly, Dimi Patrinos
and the nursing staff in S2.