Louise Owen takes up the community fight for improved parking in Park Lane, Lennox Head.
Louise Owen takes up the community fight for improved parking in Park Lane, Lennox Head.

Pumping new life into heart

A PHONE call just after 3am one day last month changed Louise Owen’s life forever.

It was St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, calling to tell the Lennox Head resident she could have the heart transplant she had waited two years for.

Louise had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle which causes the heart to work less efficiently. In some cases, it can lead to sudden death.

She has had a defibrillator for the past 19 years, after having a heart attack while pregnant.

But her only option for a ‘normal’ life was a heart transplant.

Still, Louise said she was surprisingly calm after receiving the call from the hospital about the donor heart.

“I expected to be very jumpy and anxious, but I was so calm. I can’t explain it,” she said.

Doctors told Louise to get straight on a plane to Sydney and, by 11.30am the same day, she was in surgery.

She was back in intensive care by 6pm.

Waking up a day after the operation Louise, who is president of the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce, was amazed to discover that she wasn’t in any pain.

“I feel like a new woman,” she said.

Only 70 heart transplants are done in Australia every year, and the risk of complications is very high.

Doctors won’t even consider doing the operation unless there is a 98 per cent match.

But Louise’s operation went well and she is now recovering.

“The support from my husband (Gary) has been great. He has been my tower of strength and my rock like you would not believe,” she said.

“And the support I’ve had from the Lennox Head community has been wonderful as well.

“I guess people didn’t realise how sick I was, because I am pretty good at covering it up.

She also credits staff at St Vincent’s Hospital for her speedy recovery.

“The level of professionalism is outstanding. It’s the best hospital in Australia,” Louise said.

Louise had a heart biopsy this week and will remain in hospital for a few more days to receive steroids intravenously.

“I will have to be on two or three drugs for the rest of my life. But it is a small price to pay. I feel very lucky,” she said.

And she is hoping to be back in Lennox Head in time for Christmas.

“If you thought I was busy before, just wait until I get back,” she said.

“I will be forever grateful to my donor.”


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