Transplant survivor marks milestone

Tony Matteo, 10 years after his transplant. d420149
Tony Matteo, 10 years after his transplant. d420149

Having found that he would regularly catch colds and flu, Mr Matteo ended up in hospital three times in 2003 and was diagnosed with fibrosing alveolitis.

Mr Matteo’s doctor recommended a transplant and he was placed on the waiting list at Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital.

He stayed in an apartment near the hospital for more than six months, waiting for the call that doctors had found a match and by May 2004, Mr Matteo relied on an oxygen tank to breathe.

‘You can only be on oxygen so long, it was touch and go,’ he said.

‘Then my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren were here on Mother’s Day and we went to lunch.

‘I got a call at 4pm and they operated on me at 9pm that evening.’

The operation was a success and Mr Matteo spent five months recuperating.

He now takes around 20 tablets per day, has monthly blood tests, regular medical check-ups and stays away from public places during winter to avoid catching a cold or flu, but said it’s all worth it.

‘I never dreamed I would be where I am today,’ he said.

As well as enjoying daily walks and visiting his grandchildren, Mr Matteo recently took his first overseas holiday since the operation, spending two weeks in Cambodia visiting his son.

He is now working with DonateLife WA, sharing his story with others.

‘I want to share everything, tell them the difference it makes, how you can live up to 15 years longer,’ he said.

‘I wouldn’t have been able to do everything I’ve done in the last 10 years (without the transplant).’

According to DonateLife, recent Australian registry data for lung transplants reported an overall 10-year survival rate of 45 per cent, with some recipients surviving more than 20 years.

As at May 1, 2014, 146 Australians were on the lung transplant waiting list.