Heart valve donation and the story of Hamish’s Heart

February 5th 2016

Each afternoon from 5.30pm, starting Monday 8 through to Thursday 11 February, listeners can tune in to ABC 774 to hear the inspiring story of Hamish’s Heart.

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The Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria is co-located here at VIFM and is an intrinsic part of a our Forensic Pathology services.

A series of carefully coordinated events must occur before a person can become a heart valve donor. Firstly, their death needs to be reported to the Coroner – usually because the death was unexpected or due to an accident. At that point, the deceased person is brought into the care of the VIFM Mortuary where an initial examination of the deceased person determines if that person has the potential to become a tissue donor.

Then, if the person’s family gives consent, a specialist from the Donor Tissue Bank will carefully retrieve the heart valve and prepare it for transplantation. The heart valve tissue will be stored at the tissue bank while the DTBV undertakes rigorous serology testing to ensure the tissue is safe for transplantation. At all stages of the heart valve retrieval process our staff work closely with the DTBV, the Coroners and the family to make sure the donation is a success.

Thus, we are thrilled that a heart valve retrieved here at VIFM was recently transplanted into a young Melbourne man who is the subject of  a four-part series on ABC 774’s Drive program called Hamish’s Heart.

Hamish’s Heart is the story of 18 year old Hamish Pownall who recently underwent a heart valve transplant using a donated heart valve from the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria.

Hamish, who was born with a leaky aortic valve, has endured a life of being told to ‘take it easy.’  His heart condition, which prevented oxygen-rich blood being pumped around his body, caused  fatigue, clamminess and shortness of breath. Recently Hamish was presented with the opportunity of a transplant using a human heart valve. It was an opportunity to improve his quality of life enormously.

ABC radio presenter, Raf Epstein was granted extraordinary access to the operating theatre at the Epworth Hospital to witness Hamish’s heart valve transplant operation called the Ross procedure. With the generous permission of Hamish and his family, as well as Peter Skillington (the cardiothoracic surgeon who performs the procedure) listeners will be given a unique chance to hear the amazing story of Hamish’s Heart unfold.

Like all tissue in Australia, the demand for human heart valves is greater than the supply. We encourage everyone to find out more about tissue donation and to have the conversation with family about your decision to become an organ and/or tissue donor.

Visit the DTBV website for more information and to register your decision.



Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria

Listen online – Drive with Rafael Epstein – ABC 774 Melbourne

ABC 774 melbourne Press Release (5 Feb 2016) Hamishs-Heart PDF

ABC web story – Hamish’s Heart


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