Allan Collings

Double lung transplant

When Allan Collings started on oxygen, the avid amateur sports administrator bought a backpack, put his small oxygen cylinder in it and kept on with life.

In fact, he once drove alone from Perth to Queensland with his oxygen cylinder to attend a softball championship.

But like other transplant patients, the road to better health has not always been without its hiccups.

Allan was diagnosed with chronic emphysema in 2004 at the age of 57.  His doctor Ellie Gabbay advised him to retire from work.  He became a patient at Royal Perth Hospital Advanced Lung Clinic and waited two years for a bilateral lung transplant.

To look at him now, fit and strong and wearing his trademark sports tracksuit, it’s hard to imagine he suffered a cancer scare, pneumonia, legionella and a stroke while waiting for a transplant.

He remembers well the night his hospital pager went off. It was a hot night, 6 January 2007, at 10.30pm. Accompanied to hospital by his wife and daughter, he underwent the necessary matching and tests, which took several hours.

“Early next morning, I was notified by transplant coordinator Corina Jary that it was all systems go and they would be preparing me for the transplant. My daughter, always the most positive member of the family, kissed me and said “I will see you later Dad”.

“At 7am my son and wife followed me to the doors of the operating theatre.  Both were highly emotional and fearful of the unknown.  With the help of the fantastic transplant coordinators, especially Sharon Lawrence, they found some inner strength to stay strong.”

Surgeons transplanted a set of lungs. Ten hours later, his family visited him in intensive care.

“How can I thank the family of the donor for saving my life — a sincere thank you just does not fit at times.

Allan also thanked his wife and carer Sheena, and the RPH staff for supporting him and his family.

“My family were treated with absolute respect and advised of everything that was happening in a manner that they could fully understand,” he said.  “The entire care and support from the lung transplant team, the physios, the pain management people and the unbelievable ICU staff made my remarkable transplant journey possible.  How do I thank these dedicated people who had my life in their hands.  The words just do not seem appropriate.”

Allan has lived to witness many family milestones – the 18th and 21st birthday of two grandchildren, the wedding of another, and the birth of two more, and his 40th wedding anniversary in May 2014.

“I am still the administrator of the softball association which keeps me busy, and I enjoy driving to Port Hedland a couple of times a year to visit my daughter and grandchildren.  I am still able to fish and do some crabbing — the things I could not do before because of my breathing difficulty.

“Sure I have had a couple of things go wrong since the transplant — heart surgery, diabetes and prostate cancer, but I just have to stay positive and get on with it.”

Allan now counsels other patients going through similar journeys.

“This is my way of saying thank you to someone up above for your precious gift of life.”

To contact Allan, click here.

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