LUCKY MAN: Peter Jelfs, who had a heart transplant in March 2011, and his wife Janene Jelfs of Lennox Head.
LUCKY MAN: Peter Jelfs, who had a heart transplant in March 2011, and his wife Janene Jelfs of Lennox Head. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Trasplant offers a second chance for Peter

STRUGGLING to hold back the tears, Lennox Head couple Peter and Janene Jelfs tried to find the words to express how much it meant to them for Mr Jelfs to have a life-saving heart transplant.

"We get very emotional about it because someone has given you the greatest gift that you could ever have," Mrs Jelfs said.

In 2005, Mr Jelfs was diagnosed with amyloidosis - a condition that occurs when normally soluble proteins become insoluble and clog up organs and tissues.

Things you might not know about organ donation

After a series of tests, Mr Jelfs was told he had an extremely rare form of the condition, which had various rates of progression.

From a previously active life that included surfing, Mr Jelfs' quality of life began to deteriorate.

"Peter couldn't do work, couldn't do daily activities very well at all," Mrs Jelfs said.

Five years from the original diagnosis, doctors decided it was time to "put the wheels in motion" and begin testing to determine suitability for the heart transplant waiting list.

On March 17, 2011 a surgeon reviewed Mr Jelfs' results and told him he would be put on a waiting list the following day.

Just one day after being put on the list, Mr Jelfs said he received a surprising phone call. "The mobile phone rang and it was Naomi, who is part of the transplant team," he said.

"She said 'Pete, you've got to come back to Sydney, they've got a heart for you'.

"I couldn't wipe the smile off my face." Donation specialist Dr Mike Lindley-Jones said it was important for people to discuss organ donation with their families, as the death of a loved one is usually a stressful situation.

Sometimes the relatives of the dead person are not sure what they would have wanted.

"It's a tragic time in their lives, when they've lost a loved one, but there's usually only one positive that they can look on which is the fact that somebody else is helped," Dr Lindley-Jones said.

Things you might not know about organ donation

  • Northern NSW has, on average, 36 donations per million, more than double the national average of 16 donations per million, making it one of the highest donation rates in the world.
  • Only 1% of all hospital deaths occur in circumstances where a person can be considered for organ donation.
  • Historically only about 50% of potential donors consent
  • Five times more people will receive an organ donation than donate.
  • There are about 1600 Australians on the kidney transplant list and 300-400 donations per year.

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