Heart-lung transplant pioneer dies
One of New Zealand's longest surviving heart and lung recipients has died.
Joanne Wilson was born in 1957 with a deformed heart and battled health problems all her life. She died on Wednesday in Christchurch Hospital with her husband at her bedside.
She was two weeks away from celebrating the 18th anniversary of her rare transplant.
"She had been struggling, and our son Tim had been at the hospital and he said he was worried about her," Steven Wilson said.
"I arrived at the hospital just before 6am, and at 7am she stopped breathing.
"It was just the two of us and it was peaceful, and I suppose it was the perfect ending in a way."
They met in Christchurch in the early 1980s and married in 1983.
Joanne survived swine flu, kidney failure and lung diseases, her husband said.
"She was always very determined to get on with life and she was strong," he said.
"People would tell you that they always felt very loved by Jo, and Jo was very loved by everyone."
In the early 1990s the Wilsons adopted Tim.
About 18 months later, Wilson's condition deteriorated and doctors said "there wasn't anything else they could do for her", her husband said.
"We met an Australian doctor who told us about heart-lung transplants ... and we just went from there."
The couple formed the Joanne Wilson Medical Trust in 1992 and embarked on a campaign to raise the $200,000 needed for the transplant.
"We had a lot of help and support and a few months later we were on a plane to Sydney."
Wilson was on the waiting list for more than two years. On July 19, 1994, Wilson underwent a six-hour heart-lung transplant.
"I remember leaving the hospital when she had gone into the theatre and not knowing whether or not I would have a wife in the morning," Steven Wilson said.
The transplant was successful and the family moved back to Christchurch.
A funeral will be held today at Spreydon Baptist Church.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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