Jose Luis Lopez

20 year heart and double lung transplant and part of a domino.

Married to Laraine (40 year anniversary Dec 09). We have two boys - Daniel and Nicholas.

I was born in April 1944 in Madrid, Spain and migrated to Australia in January 1964 at the age of 19.

Since arriving in Australia I have performed a number of jobs (roof plumber, fork lift driver, carpenter etc) until I become a self employed licensed plumber. I worked as a licensed plumber until 1984.

In late 1984 I became aware that my health had deteriorated to an extent where I was hospitalized for a fortnight with bronchitis. After that time I was given a lung biopsy which revealed that I had fibrosing alveolitis, after which I spent some time recuperating from the bronchitis and a lung biopsy.

After my diagnoses the specialist advised I retire from work because my condition would only deteriorate over time. From that time the family unit travelled to the north of Australia to get away from the cold winters in Geelong which gave me a better quality of life in the warmer climate.

In 1988 we were in Cairns and an article in the Cairns paper caught my eye about the work Dr Victor Chang was doing in Sydney. The article mentioned that single lung transplants would be performed in the near future.

On returning to Geelong I sent a letter to Dr Chang enquiring if there would be a possibility of my being a candidate for a single lung transplant as my quality of life was deteriorating. His office replied and said that they were not doing lungs at the moment but I could be a candidate for a double lung & heart transplant in the future.

At the next appointment with my specialist Dr Mestiz here in Geelong, I showed him the newspaper clipping and the reply from Dr Chang's office. Dr Mestiz asked me if I would really consider a transplant and I said "Yes". After that Dr. Mestiz made enquiries with the Alfred Hospital and from that I had a week of assessments. This was May 1989.

It was confirmed that I would be a recipient of a heart & double lung within the next couple of years. My condition deteriorated so rapidly that I was put on the waiting list in Nov 1989 - this was when the Clinic was just started.

From November 1989 until 23 April 1990 I had a few calls to say that a donor may be available before that day in April 1990 when the transplant took place.

From the transplant day I have never looked back thanks to the generosity of the donor and their family. They are always in my thoughts. Being a domino, my super heart (because it had to work so hard to keep me breathing and alive) was transplanted into a wonderful man Keith Webb from Aspley in Tasmania where he lived with his wife Kaye. Keith lived for 14 years doing what he loved - working on his farm and having his children and grandchildren around.

Through this connection we developed an extraordinary friendship, including staying at each other's homes and communicating by phone and letters, and meeting at The Alfred for our routine check ups.

Throughout the years following the transplant I was able to travel with my family around Australia and overseas to see my family in Spain.

It has given me an opportunity to get into sports and compete here in Australia and in the overseas games in Ten Pin Bowling and Lawn Bowls. I am proud to say I have won a number of medals from Bronze to Gold in both sports and in 2006 became Victorian 10 pin bowling champion of the year.

I have continued to take part in these sports as a social hobby.

Most importantly, I have been able to see my two sons grow into the wonderful men that they are today. The eldest is an Engineer with Ford and the other is a Solicitor in Melbourne.

Also, I have lived to see the eldest son married and in November 2009 I became a grandfather for the first time to Sam Luis my grandson - and you can imagine how happy I am with my lot.

That is what a transplant of 20 years has given me and I am looking forward to many more years.