Jane Barlett

Heart transplant

When Jane fell ill in September 2002, the active mother-of-two thought it was just a virus.

But a chest x-ray at Kalgoorlie Hospital revealed an enlarged heart.  She found out later she was in advanced heart failure as a result of a post viral dilated cardio-myopathy.

Until then, Jane’s life had seemed very ordinary.

“My husband David worked at a Kalgoorlie gold mining operation called the Super Pit. Tom (10) and Maddy (8) settled into North Kalgoorlie Primary School. Life continued happily. I taught swimming, riding my bike to and from work each day,” she said.

Suddenly, she was being flown by the Royal Flying Doctors to Perth for two weeks until she was stabilised.

“I remember looking out over the Perth hills from the window in my room and wondering if I would ever see my family again….. I was so far from home,” she recalled.

For the next 18 months, Jane had regular check ups in Perth and started work again on a part-time basis. “I could not walk for more than 1km and I tired easily. It was very challenging for someone who had been so active; to not be able to walk with the children to school.

“I had a few blackouts and a defibrillator was implanted to try and manage the arrhythmias. Each time I came to Perth David stayed behind to care for our children. These were sad and scary times and we always seemed to be in the car or I was on a plane or in specialist’s rooms for tests.”

In October 2003, Jane was referred to the Advanced Heart Failure Unit at Royal Perth Hospital transplant unit and was advised to stay in Perth.  Her family stayed in Kalgoorlie at work and school, visiting her every second weekend.

Her daughter Maddie wrote in her journal at the time: “Tom and I caught the train down to Perth to see Mum. Auntie Ing took us into Royal Perth Hospital and saw Mum. Mum cried as soon as she saw us, and soon Tom was crying. I had no idea why, but now I realised that Mum thought it was the last time she would see us…ever. I started crying too.

Maddie wrote: “She is dead… the first thought that crossed my mind when Auntie Ing woke us up at 7am. But no! Mum was in the operating theatre with surgeons performing heart surgery. We spent all that day doing things, having little luxuries, like going into the city and going shopping.”

Jane recalls: “Amazingly at 2am an organ became available, a perfect match.  I was transplanted on November 27, 2003.  I remember being able to breathe… it was wonderful.  David had driven down in the middle of the night. My parents and sister waited in the hospital. The kids were fascinated with it all.  Thank goodness we had fallen into such good hands. What a magnificent unit we have here in WA.”

Jane spent the summer in Perth in rehab. “Ten weeks post- transplant I was cycling in from Cottesloe… it was fantastic to exercise again!”

“I loved my new heart from the moment I received it. Not a day goes by when I do not think of my donor family who made such a courageous and positive decision at such a tragic time in their loves. We write each year. I still take my pulse all the time – it is regular…and I love it! There is no doubt in my mind that transplant is a really positive thing.”

These days, the children have finished high school. Jane participates each year in the City to Surf 12 km walk. She returned to work, built a dream home with her husband, and they both celebrated their 50th birthdays.

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