Fiona’s heart still strong after 25 years
'Now 39, she attributes her prolonged well-being to daily immunosuppressant medication as well as a good diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle'The West Australian
When Fiona Coote had her first heart transplant, surviving five years was considered about the best she could expect. Twenty-five years later, she is still going strong.
“To be feeling so well and healthy is phenomenal, this is an incredible day for me,” said Ms Coote, who as a 14-year-old became Australia’s second and youngest ever heart transplant patient in 1984.
She had a second transplant two years later and has now survived longer than any other transplant patient in the southern hemisphere.
“Many of the doctors who treated me back then are still here today,” she said during 25th anniversary celebrations in Sydney, with scores of the other 1300 people given fresh hope of life at St Vincent’s Hospital’s world renowned heart and lung transplant unit.
“This time, just over 25 years ago, I had no health problems, then my life changed within a month,” said Ms Coote, who’s heart suffered complications from viral-induced tonsilitis.
Now 39, she attributes her prolonged well-being to daily immunosuppressant medication as well as a good diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
She works as a physiotherapist’s assistant, saying: “Having my chest opened so many times has been very handy.”
The only Australian to receive a new heart before Ms Coote was a 39-year-old shearer from Armidale in northern NSW, who died months after his February 23, 1984, operation.
But the program started by the late Dr Victor Chang has become so successful that the five-year survival rate is now almost 77 per cent, well over the international standard of 68 per cent.
The transplant unit’s director, Dr Phillip Spratt, said St Vincent’s hoped this year to implant the southern hemisphere’s first totally artificial heart.
He said a $150 million Federal Government project to boost organ donor numbers was expected to lead to a 30 per cent increase in the hospital’s transplant operations.
NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca, who also marked the 3000th organ transplant at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred on Monday, said miraculous technology and brilliant professionals were helping to “extend the limits of human compassion”.
Double heart transplant patient Peter Wicks, president of the Australian Heart/Lung Transplant Association, presented St Vincent’s with a signpost from a Canberra Street recently named after Dr Chang.
He said he’d acquired it legally but had been prepared to “pinch it”.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves