Baldivis mother thankful for second chance

Pierra WillixSound Telegraph
Baldivis mother Gina Williams received a heart transplant in 2016.
Camera IconBaldivis mother Gina Williams received a heart transplant in 2016. Credit: Pierra Willix

For Baldivis mother Gina Williams, the generosity of a family who chose to donate their loved one’s heart is something she thinks about every day.

In 2016, after suffering nearly 20 years of heart problems, Mrs Williams underwent a heart transplant.

At the age of just 21, a routine surgery to remove her wisdom teeth ended in cardiac arrest, after which it was discovered she had problems with her heart.

She spent six years on medication to help reduce her blood pressure, which seemed to be doing its job, until, when on a family trip to Disneyland in Florida, she suffered a huge heart attack.

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“I collapsed and then had a major stroke when I was in hospital,” she said. “I had a long recovery from there, and had to learn how to talk, walk and eat again.

“It took me a year to be able to be able to speak again.”

A pacemaker was inserted, but after moving to Australia, Mrs Williams was told that she was going into heart failure.

She was put on the organ transplant list, and three months later, a donor was found.

“Every day, I think of my donor, and actually wrote a letter to his parents, thanking them for what they did,” she said.

After losing her father when he was just 36 from a heart attack, Mrs Williams said organ donation was something always talked about within her family.

“We weren’t in a position where we could have donated his organs, but I always said I would like to be able to donate myself,” she said.

Mrs Williams encouraged others to consider registering to become a donor to help give a life-saving gift to someone in need.

“Without it, I wouldn’t have been here, or been able to be here for my son,” she said.

In the 10 years since the national reform program was introduced, organ donation has more than doubled to 554 organ donors in 2018 compared to 247 organ donors in 2009.

The number of transplant recipients has almost doubled from 799 recipients in 2009 to 1544 recipients in 2018.

Mrs Williams also spoke about a side to organ donation not often spoken about.

Anti-rejection medication, required so that her heart does not go into failure, is a huge cost, leaving her more than $500 out of pocket each month.

The stroke she suffered has also affected her ability to obtain and maintain employment.

For more information or to join the donor register, go to https://donatelife.gov.au.

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