Renowned transplantation surgeon encourages people to give the gift of life

A surgeon wearing surgical scrubs perform surgery in a theatre.
Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Transplantation, Professor Robert Larbalestier (right in image)
July 26, 2022

To mark DonateLife Week (Sunday 24 to Sunday 31 July 2022) , we sat down with Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Transplantation, Professor Robert Larbalestier.

Having performed Western Australia’s first heart transplant in 1995 and lung transplant in 2005, Robert is a very highly respected surgeon who has made significant contributions to the field.

Robert said he first wanted to become a transplantation surgeon because it sounded interesting and exciting but stayed because changing people’s lives for the better is incredibly rewarding.

“Transplantation was evolving so quickly when I first trained and I thought it would be a very interesting field to be a part of,” Robert explained.

“I carried out my first transplant, a heart, at a Boston Hospital in 1990 and although transplants were fairly new on the scene, outcomes for organ recipients had already improved significantly since the 1960s when the first successful organ transplant happened.

“Patient outcomes in Western Australia are world class and nowadays there is no reason why an organ recipient cannot live a full and active life following their surgery.

For DonateLife Week, Robert encourages people to consider registering as an organ and tissue donor and having a chat with their loved ones about their wishes to donate.

“There are currently around 1,750 Australians on the transplantation waitlist,” Robert said.

“For these people it’s a matter of life and death – they’re relying on the generosity and kindness of organ donors and their families to be able to experience life as the rest of us do.

“In Australia we are so privileged to have the opportunity to give the gift of life to a complete stranger when we die and by doing so, we can leave behind an incredible legacy.”

Robert continues to shape the future of transplantation in Australia, having been instrumental in establishing the Western Australian Heart and Lung Transplant Service and currently sitting on the board of the WA Heart and Lung Transplant Foundation and West Australian Donation Advisory Committees. He also received an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2019 for distinguished service to medicine, particularly cardiothoracic surgery and transplantation.

Visit DonateLife (external site) to register as an organ and tissue donor in under one minute.