Tony Matteo

Celebrating an Anniversary - A trip from Perth to visit The Alfred

Tony doesn't need to travel to The Alfred for his follow-up appointments now that there is a Transplant Clinic in Perth. But he wanted to visit The Alfred staff to celebrate his 7th Anniversary and say thank you to all those who had been so important to him while he was in Melbourne as part of his transplant journey.

Tony was born in Calabria, Italy and came to Australia with his parents when he was 11 years old. The family settled in Perth. At first it was a little difficult but Tony settled in before very long. After finishing his apprenticeship as a Cabinet Maker, Tony went up to Exmouth in WA to join his brother-in-law who was already working there and stayed for seven months.

Occupational health and safety conditions weren't very good during his apprenticeship days and Tony worked with old machines and there was dust everywhere. He remembers sometimes this caused him to cough up blood. Then there were all the glues he was using in his work. Tony has lived most of his life in Perth's northern suburb area where a lot of Italian migrants had settled. Tony was a keen 10 Pin Bowler for many years and enjoyed sports such as tennis and soccer.

Tony is happy to share his transplant journey.

"In 1981 I cut my hand on a machine and nearly lost my thumb. I ended up in hospital and when the doctor came to look at my hand he seemed more interested in my fingernails and asked if I would like a specialist to see me. There wasn't a family history of any lung or heart problems. I didn't smoke and only had the occasional drink.

At first I had quite a few tests and one found that I had a small spot. The doctor said he would like to keep a check on this. A biopsy in 1986 showed no cancer but still a small spot. Further tests were taken at 1 to 3 year intervals. It showed growth had occurred only every 5 years.

In 2000 I had to stop working because of my health. I was short of breath. I had travelled to Singapore quite often from 1992. On my trips from 2001 it became clear my immune system wasn't coping and in 2003 I was in hospital three times. On the third visit to the hospital in six months the doctor said "What are you doing here again?" I said "You mustn't be doing a good job!" He said "What do you think about a transplant?" At first I wasn't interested but after being in hospital three times I changed my mind and was interviewed when the doctors came over to Perth from The Alfred in September 2003. In early November I heard that the test results were fine and I travelled to Melbourne.

By February 2004 I could only go on the treadmill for 2 minutes, by April only one minute. In May 2004 my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren were in Melbourne. It was Mother's Day and we went out to lunch. They were going to visit a friend and as I was tired I went back to my apartment. Then at around 2 or 3 o'clock my call came. I was told I had 20 minutes to get to the hospital. I was operated on in the night.

I arrived back at my apartment on the day I was discharged from The Alfred after my transplant and was just putting down my bag when I twisted and heard a crack in my back. Later on the Xrays showed I had five fractured vertebrae and I ended up in hospital for two weeks then it was decided I should return to Perth by plane for recovery. Plaster support was needed for my back. I couldn't bend. I couldn't carry anything more than 2 kilos in weight. For 18 months I had to be very careful and could only walk slowly. At the same time I had to keep going and look after my lungs with exercise. I have a good doctor for my bones and now I can lift 20 kilos and walk long distances."

Tony said his health and fitness is helped by the good cooking of his Russian born wife and they enjoy long walks together at the beach.

Tony Matteo
Double Lung € May 2004