Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    Medical first gives new lease of life for WA man

    16/06/2005 12:00 AM

    Staff at Royal Perth Hospital have created medical history by performing the State’s first heart-lung transplant.

    Health Minister Jim McGinty today paid tribute to the medical team involved in the life-saving surgery.

    “The dedication and talent of the surgeons, physicians, anaesthetists and nurses in the Western Australian Heart and Lung Transplant Service truly encapsulate the quality of medical staff and facilities we have in WA,” Mr McGinty said.

    “It is wonderful that we have the expertise to give people a chance of living life to the fullest.”

    Forty-five-year-old Paul Barratt had suffered from a rare congenital heart disease from birth and became the State’s first recipient of a heart-lung transplant about a month ago.

    Mr Barratt, whose health had been deteriorating, said he had always been restricted from any physical activity, but since the operation the simple act of taking a leisurely walk with his son was a new pleasure.

    “I feel pretty darn good now and I can walk six kilometres an hour, which I have never been able to do in my life,” he said.

    “It is not just myself who benefits from this - my whole family is benefiting from me being able to walk with them and do things with them.

    “It is totally mind-blowing - I now have a future with my family.

    “The question used to be whether I would survive to our 20th wedding anniversary in July, but now we are planning a holiday next year.”

    Mr Barratt will need immuno-suppressant drugs for the rest of his life, but he is ecstatic about receiving a new lease on life.

    “I would like to honour the work of the Royal Perth Hospital transplant team and DonateWest,” he said.

    Cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Larbalestier said heart and lung transplants were rare because donor organs were in such high demand and there were very narrow guidelines for matching a recipient to donor organs.

    Mr Larbalestier said it was also important that recipients had a good chance of survival and good health after a transplant.

    “Transplant recipients must have significant commonalties with the donor such as blood type, height and weight and matching lung size,” he said.

    “Mr Barratt was the best candidate for the operation because he looked after himself - he was as fit and healthy as he could have possibly been and was compliant with the doctors’ advice.”

    The historic double transplant came within a year of the Gallop Government committing $1.5million to expand the heart transplant program to include lung transplantation.

    Surgeons have performed two lung transplants since the unit opened and expect at least 12 WA patients a year will benefit from the new unit.

    Mr McGinty said the State’s first heart-lung transplant highlighted the importance of organ donation and the need for more people to register as donors.

    “Only a third of the State’s population - about 670,000 Western Australians - are registered organ donors,” he said.

    “We would like to see closer to 50 per cent of the population register as donors so that others get a chance from this type of life-saving surgery.”

    Last year 22 people donated their organs for life-saving transplants, compared with 18 in 2003, 15 in 2002 and 12 in 2001.

    Each donor can potentially donate up to 10 of their organs including lungs, kidneys, heart, liver and corneas.

    Minister’s office: 9220 5000