Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Diane Hebert, the first Quebecer to get a double-lung and heart transplant, dies

It was with great sadness that I learned of Diane Hebert's passing. She called me last fall and we had a lengthy talk. I had just posted an article about Dr. Tom Todd, who assisted in the world's first successful lung transplant. He also assisted in her heart and double-lung transplant and she wrote about him in her book. Farewell Diane, you were a brave soul and defied all odds to survive some 23 years following your transplant.

From The Canadian Press:

MONTREAL — Diane Hebert, the first Quebecer to get a double-lung and heart transplant, has died at the age of 51.

Hebert's mother, Cecile Hebert, told all-news TV station LCN that her daughter died early Sunday.

In 1983, Diane Hebert's doctor told her she was likely to live only another two years because of primitive pulmonary hypertension, which plugs the arteries around the heart, deprives the body of oxygen and makes breathing increasingly difficult. A double-organ transplant was the only answer.

A two-year wait for a heart-and-lung donation at the Stanford University Medical Centre in California was futile so Hebert moved to Toronto, where the organs became available in November 1985.

She underwent a six-and-a-half-hour operation to have her clogged heart and lungs removed and replaced with those of a woman who had died in a car crash.

Hebert, who weighed 70 pounds at the time, spent a month in hospital recovering from the transplant and five subsequent operations.

She wrote a book, Un second souffle (Second Wind), which was released in 1986.

She then became active in a campaign to promote greater public awareness of the need for increased organ donations. One of her major achievements was to get organ-donor authorizations printed on the back of Quebec health-insurance cards,

In a 1986 interview, Hebert spoke about every day alive being a "bonus."

"If I live five years, so much the better," she said. "What's important is that I'm here at the moment."

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