Media personality and former senator Derryn Hinch says he no longer speaks with the family of the man who saved his life by donating his liver, as they are angry he started drinking again.
The 76-year-old underwent a liver transplant in 2011 after being diagnosed with aggressive cancer, and the organ was donated by the family of Heath Gardner.
But the New Zealand-born broadcaster said he has not spoken with the Gardner family for more than two years after he began drinking alcohol again following the operation.
‘They got very angry when I announced that, “yes, I have been having a drink again sometimes”. Even though I had my doctor’s permission, they did not like that,’ Hinch told the Herald Sun’s Sacked Showbiz podcast.
‘I will always recognise that family for what they did and the fact that without them I would not be here.’
Hinch credits the family’s generosity for keeping him alive for another decade and hopes to repair the tattered relationship before the ten-year anniversary of the transplant in 2021.
The relationship first began to crumble after Hinch appeared on 60 Minutes in 2012 following the operation.
The family believe Mr Gardner was painted as a criminal in the program after focusing on his troubled past in the segment.
Despite their differences, Mr Gardner’s sister Kimberley said the family were open to rekindling their relationship with Hinch.
‘As far as I recall, our relationship with Derryn came to an end as there were some differences in opinions regarding Derryn’s choice to begin drinking again, as we felt that this was not respectful to the second chance that he was lucky enough to receive,’ she said.
‘However, even before that we began to drift. After the filming of 60 Minutes it was obvious that Heath was painted to be a criminal, despite what the story was actually supposed to represent.’
Hinch said his cancer diagnosis in 2010 changed his outlook to start living his life to the absolute fullest for the remaining time he had left.
‘When I was told I had cancer, probably terminal, and probably only a year to live, Chanel (his then wife) and I were due to go to Sydney the next day,’ he said.
‘As soon as I told her she said, “I suppose Sydney is off then.” I said, “why?” I said, “I am no different than I was yesterday, I will be the same tomorrow. If I take that attitude that I don’t do anything I might as well rent a box from the funeral parlour and put it in the front lounge and lie down in it and wait for it to happen.”
‘I appreciate the fact that if I had not got a transplant I would not be here, I would never have become a politician.
‘Being a senator was one of the great moments and great experiences of my life. Three of the greatest years of my life.
‘I am just lucky to still be here.’
Hinch said he is feeling the best he has felt in years after embarking on a fitness program in 2020, losing 13kg since January 1.
He also has revealed he was nearly sacked from his radio job for unveiling details of cricketer David Hookes’ love life after his death.
Hookes died after being punched by a bouncer and falling backwards and hitting his head on a footpath outside the Beaconsfield Hotel in St Kilda in Melbourne in January 2004.
The former batsmen played 23 tests for Australia before becoming coach of the Victorian state side and enjoyed a successful media career as a sports broadcaster on 3AW radio.
Following the tragedy, Hinch broadcast on 3AW that Hookes was no longer with his wife Robyn and had been out with his new girlfriend Christine Padfield on the evening of his death.
The disclosure angered colleagues who started a campaign to have him sacked from the station, believing he had tarnished Hookes’ reputation.
‘In my opening editorial that day, paying tribute to David Hookes, I said I think six or seven words, just saying, “there is another woman grieving out there”, that was all I said,’ Hinch said.
‘Clark Forbes was the program manager at the time and he was in Adelaide at a wake and one of his staff held the phone to the radio so he could hear what I was saying and he called me on the red phone during the commercial break and he just unloaded on me with f-words and c-words and hung up.
‘Many of them, I think Ross Stevenson, never did speak to me because of this. They all told Graham Mott, the boss (General Manager), that he should sack me.
‘And Mott said, “what would I tell the media? That I sacked him for telling the truth?”‘
Hinch’s media career spans 60 years in radio and television, where he has been sacked by his employer 16 times.
He has served two prison sentences for contempt of court in 1987 and 2014 and one bout of home detention for breaching suppression orders to name two sex offenders in 2011.
The former Australian senator said he did not know the details of Hookes’ love life were being kept secret by the station, but held firm with his reportage.
‘I did not know, it was kept hidden by 3AW, that he and his wife had been separated for a long time, that he had been seeing another woman for a long time and they were looking at buying a house together,’ Hinch said.
‘I did not know anything about this and I found out later on that his girlfriend and his separated wife were in different rooms at the hospital at that tragic time and being kept apart by AW executives.’
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