A second chance at life

The other night I met a lovely lady called Teresa and her husband Andrew.  Teresa works in the Call Centre at the Manukau SuperClinic, and earlier this year underwent a double lung transplant, recovering at Auckland’s Hearty Towers – a rehabilitation unit for transplant patients.  While Teresa’s life has now dramatically changed for the better, for example she’s currently in training for her first duathalon, her journey starts back in August 2013.  It was during this time that Teresa picked up a virus called RSV. RSV is a respiratory virus that infects your lungs and breathing passages, and while most healthy people, manage to bounce back, Teresa wasn’t so lucky, ending up in Intensive Care.

Teresa marks her spot on the transplant map.
Teresa marks her spot on the transplant map.

Two weeks later her head was spinning after receiving the news she needed a double lung transplant.  In October 2014 Teresa was put on an ‘active transplant’ waiting list and was told she could wait up to 22 weeks for a suitable donor.  With time not on her side, 22 weeks seemed like a life time, and for Teresa and her family it was an anxious wait.  On 26 March, she received a call that would change her life, forever.  The Transplant team had found a donor and she was told to prepare herself for surgery.  On 26  March, Teresa became the 205th lung transplant recipient in NZ.  She would soon become close friends with recipients 204 and 206, who like Teresa received double lung transplants within six hours of one another.  They now refer to each other as the three musketeers.

Teresa’s amazing journey has been openly shared through her blogs and we share an extract from her most recent blog below:

Ok it’s no secret that this is toughThe journey has been tough, the recovery has been tough and the mental gymnastics are amazingly tough.  If you can imagine that about now we would have been dealing with hospice care, probably a hospital bed in the spare room, injections of all sorts to make it easy for me to die and my poor family going through pretty much what they went through two years ago when I was in ICU and they were advised to switch me off.  Funny thinking about that, they were never approached to make me a donor, probably because I wasn’t brain dead and they thought I may get shocked back to life by having the life support withdrawn? Meh its academic cos here I am.  So I have a wee bit of survivor guilt going on as well, because basically, someone’s loved one, died…yep died…and I got another chance at life… how bizarre is that?  I have to say a massive thanks to my donor, whoever you are and wherever you are and your family…thank you.  To do credit to you, I am doing my very best to treat these lungs better than I treated my own. So we are at 14 weeks post op now and it is no longer new…but still a lot going on.  It is still amazing to hear people say “gosh you look well, you have colour in your face, I haven’t seen you look this good in years” but there are only so many replies now so you tend to say “thanks” … read more

If you have the time check out Teresa’s other blogs.  They portray a remarkable, honest and raw journey as Teresa counts down the weeks leading up to her transplant.  If there is a message Teresa would like to leave, it’s to raise awareness around organ donation and how the miracle of giving can change people’s lives.  She points out that even though your donor information is recorded on your driver’s licence, at the time of death, the decision to donate your organs will lie with your family.  Teresa encourages people to start a conversation with family, loved ones and friends about organ donation to ensure your wishes are followed.

NZ has the lowest rates of organ donation in the world, and people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, whether it’s heart, lungs or kidneys often wait for a very long time.  For some the wait is too long.

For further information about organ donation go to www.donor.co.nz

Teresa and Geraint


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Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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