Real Life

Aussie grandmother: ‘A dead heart saved my life!’

Adored Aussie nanna Michelle Gribilas is now fit as a fiddle thanks to groundbreaking Australian organ research.
Michelle’s future was hanging in the balance when medics at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital threw her a lifeline.
In a medical landmark, a donor heart that had stopped beating was successfully resuscitated and transplanted into her body.
As the first person in history to undergo the breakthrough procedure, Michelle, 58, wasn’t concerned about the risks – or the fact the heart had been dead.
“I told them, ‘I don’t care as long as I’m alive!’” she recalls.
Until now, a donor heart had to be beating (and the giver diagnosed brain dead) to be viable for transplanting but now surgeons at St Vincent’s have masterminded a technique for reviving and preserving hearts of recently deceased patients.
For Michelle, who has four children and nine grandkids, the medical procedure gave her the second chance she so desperately needed.
“I’ve been reborn,” she tells Woman’s Day with joy in her eyes.
“I now walk 3km every morning with my husband Harry, and I walk again in the afternoon.”
Thanks to her amazing success story, Michelle is now committed to encourage organ donation. You can register to become an organ donor too by visiting donorregister.gov.au.
“I’ve got a second chance at life. A lot of people die before they have that chance. I was very lucky to find a heart – now I’m going to look after it.”
Read all about Michelle’s journey from being nearly at death’s door, to the miracle procedure that saved her, only in Woman’s Day on sale 2nd February.

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