PDH Helps Ballarat Man To Receive New Liver

Photo: Devon & Chrissie Warren
Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Australia Day fireworks will always have a special place in Chrissie Warren’s heart after this year’s emotional connection.

As Chrissie hung up the phone from the Austin Hospital to hear her husband Devon’s liver transplant had been a success, the January 26 fireworks started flashing across the Ballarat skyline.

The timing was incredible; perfect for a celebration,” Chrissie said.

The timing to get Devon from Portland to Melbourne for the transplant was also incredible and the couple have paid tribute to Portland District Health (PDH) staff.

Devon and Chrissie had been holidaying in Portland, with daily assistance coordinated by the Austin and PDH Hospital in the Home programs, to renovate their bus when news of the transplant came through.

Devon had been on the waiting list for 297 days after enduring a year from hell with cirrhosis of the liver.

He'd dropped from 106 to 61kgs, was in hospital every week for an acidic drip to drain fluid and was spending 85 per cent of his time in bed. Only 14 per cent of his liver was working and Devon had been told he had only a year to live.

Devon and Chrissie were due to return to Ballarat on January 21 but he fell sick the night before and was admitted to PDH.

Just as he was completing a five day course of antibiotics to treat a fluid infection and feeling well enough to spend some time out of hospital to visit his dog Archie, the transplant became available.

They rang and asked where I was? I said Portland was about five hours away but they said they'd work out how to do it.

PDH and Austin staff worked together to make sure the transplant could happen in time and called in the emergency helicopter service.

My first reaction was I need Chrissie; I need my rock, Devon said. I rang her and said you'd better get back here to the hospital; she thought I'd had a failure but it was good news.

From the minute they took the call, the staff at Portland did everything they could to have me ready for the air ambulance, he said.

It was all hands on deck and they were amazing. I’ll never be able to express our thanks and gratitude.

The flight took just one hour 27 minutes from PDH to the Austin where Devon was stabilised to wait for the organ.

After an eight-hour operation, Chrissie was called by their surgeon Mr Graham Starkey about 9.30pm Australia Day.

He said it had gone well and the liver was functioning well. I just said from the bottom of our hearts thank everyone in the room so much; this has changed our lives.

Then as soon as I hung up the phone the Australia Day fireworks went off.

Devon made a better than anticipated recovery and was walking in less than 24 hours. I've got the scars and the better lifestyle to prove it, but I don’t know that I've really processed all that happened, he says.

I looked like a skeleton wrapped in skin. I'm 46 and I've probably lost 10 years off my life but that doesn't worry me because of the quality of life I have now thanks to the liver donor and the Austin and Portland hospitals.

Having been through one previous `dummy' run when they prepared for a transplant that eventually went to a child, Devon and Chrissie were relaxed and well prepared for the operation.

When I saw the organ coming in a blue eski I realised it was going to happen,” Devon said. I was remarkably calm; I don’t know why. I guess it had a lot to do with the way it was handled so professionally by everyone.

Devon is going through intensive recuperation and is ahead of schedule, though he faces of lifetime of monitoring.

Devon and Chrissie plan to plant a tree in a different part of Australia each year as a mark of respect for the donor and their medical carers. They also plan fund-raising activities and hope to inspire others to become organ donors.

They plan to write a letter to the donor, but the words won't come easy. How do you say thank you for saving my life?” Devon asks.

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