Cardiothoracic transplant work extends lives 25 years on

Two older men stand beside each other in a garden
WA’s first heart transplant Rodney Western and his surgeon Robert Larbalestier are thrilled to catch up 24 years on.
October 25, 2019

WA cardiothoracic transplant services’ staff and patients are celebrating some outstanding milestones this weekend.

It’s a quarter of a century since the Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Service was set up, 15 years since the Advanced Lung Disease Unit started, and 20 years since the Mechanical Circulatory Support Service began.

In that time there have been 198 Heart Transplants, 182 Lung Transplants and 130 Ventricular Assist Devices (VADS) implanted.

To celebrate these achievements patients from across the state who have a second chance of life, together with Fiona Stanley Hospital staff, will enjoy a morning tea this weekend.

For Rodney Western, the first patient to have a heart transplanted in WA, the occasion is an opportunity to catch-up with Surgical Head of Cardiopulmonary Transplant Service Mr Robert Larbalestier and the surgical team who performed his transplant 24 years ago.

“Although it’s been 24 years since my transplant I remember clearly the day I received the phone call asking me to come Perth for the transplant, I was excited and nervous at the same time,” Rodney said.

“But, it all worked out really well with the team having me up and walking quite soon after the operation.”

Rodney has since had a fulfilling life including work, hobbies and time with his wife, three children and eight grandchildren.

On average there are 10 heart transplants per year in WA, and seven VADs implanted each year.

There has been a big growth in lung transplants with the introduction of donation after circulatory death, and the unit now does an average of 16 per year.

South Metropolitan Health Service Chief Executive Paul Forden said none of this could happen without the exceptional skill and care of the multi-disciplinary teams based at Fiona Stanley Hospital, and previously at Royal Perth Hospital.

“The teams work collaboratively to deliver internationally recognised programs of care,” Paul said.

“They achieve excellent clinical results, with survival rates above many similar services nationally and internationally.”

The services have a strong commitment to contributing to science and knowledge through research and training of the next generation of practitioners.

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