Proud father of two girls, Peter Leeton, was born with a severe heart disease. Growing up, he was thin, had blue lips and nails and was always short of breath. But his real battle began in 2011 when he suffered multiple organ failure.
His heart, along with his lungs and other organs, was dying.
The only way to save Peter’s life was with a heart-lung transplant. Peter recalls “My wife Lisa and I have two young girls to think about, and we knew the transplant was going to be a very complex operation. But without it, I knew I only had a few years left.”
Professor David McGiffin, Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at The Alfred, was Peter’s surgeon.
He tells us that “Peter’s surgery took 14 hours; it was extremely complex. He had hundreds and hundreds of blood vessels coming from his systemic circulation, and each blood vessel had lots of tiny branches – they had been developing throughout his whole life. Every single one of those branches had to be dealt with before his new heart and lungs could be implanted.”
Peter knew the operation had worked when he woke up at The Alfred, and for the first time in his life, noticed his fingernails were pink – a sign that his blood now carried enough oxygen. He says now: “That’s when it hit home, I’d never had pink fingernails before, it was amazing. The operation required was unbelievably complex – The Alfred was the only place in Australia that could do it. If it wasn’t for The Alfred I doubt I would be here today. It’s as simple as that.”
Peter adds: “When I drive the girls to school now, we park the car, and start walking to the gate. And we walk past this spot where I always used to have to take a rest, because I was so out of breath. But now, I have no need. And I just think how amazing that really is. My family couldn’t be happier.”
In 2018 The Alfred purchased an additional Heart-Lung Bypass Machine thanks to generous support from our community. A Heart-Lung Bypass Machine is a vital part of virtually all heart surgery, including: coronary artery bypass surgery, heart valve surgery and also more complex procedures, such as Peter’s heart-lung transplant. Thanks to the contributions of many we can now help even more people.