First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on April 9, 1984.
When 14-year-old Fiona Coote went to the operating table about 8am yesterday, she had only a few hours to live. But the operation at St Vincent’s Hospital has given her a new heart – and new hope.
Fiona had waited four days for the donor heart after arriving at the Royal North Shore Hospital from Tamworth on Thursday. She was suffering from cardio-myopathy, in which the heart is damaged and not able to work as it should.
Doctors at the Royal North Shore told Terry and Judy Coote that their daughter would die unless she received a new heart. As Fiona’s condition deteriorated steadily, the search for the heart began.
Fiona was on a heart support system on Saturday when doctors had a possible donor heart. She was then moved to St Vincent’s.
The three-hour operation went smoothly. Dr Victor Chang, who headed the operating team, said yesterday: “Compatibility of the heart tissue was excellent. Age compatibility was good and the size was perfect.”
Mr and Mrs Coote and their other daughters, Kim, 20, and Stacey, 18, were relieved that the transplant had gone ahead.
Mr Coote said: “It was a very difficult thing to do, to ask for this [a donor heart] for our daughter, knowing that for her to live, somebody else’s life had to be lost and probably somebody the same age.”
The rejection process has to be overcome. This may take months. But there is a particular risk of acute rejection which continues until about seven or 10 days.
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