Kay Burnett died last month at the age of 71, having had heart, lung and kidney transplants.
She had 34 years added to her life after getting a second set of heart and lungs, the longest time for a transplant patient.
Burnett was in her mid-30s, when the Marton woman was confined to bed with emphysema – her daughter, Melissa was nine when her mum went to the UK for the transplant in 1987.
Sir Magdi Yacoub performed the surgery, which at the time was controversial.
“People said why are you doing this thing, it’s not going to last, you’re just doing experimental surgery. We certainly didn’t know that it was going to last for 30 years. We hoped that it would last four or five years,” he told 1 NEWS.
The operation pioneered domino-donor transplants, Burnett’s heart giving someone else a second chance.
“A healthy heart from a heart-lung transplant recipient, it occurred to me at that time, it’s wrong to throw it in the bin,” Yacoub says.
Given a new lease on life, for the next three decades, Burnett was the heart and lung recipient of a young woman killed in a car accident.
It took her to the transplant games and helped see her family grow up.
“Back then you couldn’t meet donor families or anything like that but we would like them to know that she got all these extra years,” Melissa Burnett says.
But the anti-rejection drugs weakened Burnett’s kidneys and she later needed another transplant.
The recipient of a number of donors, Burnett knew she was fortunate.
“One of her strong feelings was that everyone who’s born should automatically be a donor and then you need to opt out,” her daughter says.
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