Keeping love alive with world-class medical engineering

 

The doctors and researchers at The Prince Charles Hospital are part of many special moments in the lives of their patients. Seeing someone who is critically ill make a full recovery is probably top of their list, not only because they are given a second chance in life, but in love too!

This February, many of us will choose Valentine’s Day to show those special to us how important they are. With love in the air, we are proud to be backing the amazing heart research happening at The Prince Charles Hospital’s Innovative Cardiovascular Engineering and Technology Lab (ICETLAB). Research that is keeping couples together every day by advancing lifesaving medical engineering.

Thanks to The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane couple Geoff and Roneen Fletcher were given a second chance at life together after Geoff became seriously ill. Diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at 38, he was enjoying life with the help of a pacemaker, until four years later when he had a cardiac arrest.

Geoff was now in end-stage heart failure and in need of a transplant. To save his life, he was fitted with two Ventricular Assist Devices (BiVAD), one for each side of his failing heart. A VAD is a piece of medical technology which works as an implantable pump that keeps failing hearts going. These devices, although lifesaving, are not without their risks. Geoff suffered dangerous blood clotting with his first VAD and needed lifesaving surgery to implant a second one.

Thankfully, with the new device working with fewer complications, Geoff was able to leave the ICU. After thinking he’d spend his last days looking at the hospital ceiling, getting outside in the fresh air was an amazing moment. Most importantly, because he had a big occasion to attend – his wedding to his fiancé of 14 years!

With the VAD batteries in a backpack, Geoff made it down the aisle on the 9th of October 2016. Twelve days later, the newlyweds received the news they were waiting for; a donor heart was available. Now, just over a year after transplant surgery, the courageous couple are finding their feet again in life.

When a person experiences heart failure, often their only chance of survival is a transplant. A VAD can keep them alive whilst they’re waiting; however, it’s a new treatment with risky complications, like infection and blood clotting, which almost took Geoff’s life.

There are important projects, backed by The Common Good, being undertaken by the ICETLAB to improve VAD’s and reduce their risks. These lifesaving devices are also not readily available in many developing countries yet; another big issue the research team is hoping to change!

As a Better Business Partner of The Common Good, we are proud to be backing the ICETLAB, who, with cutting-edge engineering, are working hard to reduce preventable deaths from heart disease and improve survival rates for those awaiting transplants, not just in Australia, but all over the globe.

Without this kind of research, the VAD’s that kept Geoff alive would not exist, neither would the technology behind many other medical devices we take for granted, such as pacemakers, defibrillators or ECG machines. It’s great to be part of the movement that’s putting people power behind research advancing medical technology, and it’s even better to know it’s reuniting patients with their loved ones every day.

The Common Good is an initiative of The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, using people power to fund life changing medical discoveries. Find more at thecommongood.org.au 

A Better Business Partner of the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation

 

GDP were invited by The Stephens Group to become a Better Business Partner of the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation. Which has a special significance to the Stephens Family. GDP are now committed to support world class medical research that will help tackle chronic illness, the illnesses which may affect many of our friends and family. GDP will be donating yearly to the cause to give researchers the time they need to continue carrying out their vital work.  Below is an article which hits close to home for a staff member who was diagnosed with Coeliac disease 5 years ago.

Treating coeliac disease with hookworms

If the thought of parasitic hookworms burrowing through your skin until they find your intestine makes you nauseous, spare a thought for people who experience coeliac disease. This genetically predisposed condition affects one in 70 people in Australia, damaging the small bowel as a result of the immune system reacting abnormally to gluten.

Coeliac disease can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms and aside from the physical pain, managing coeliac disease can be expensive and frustrating.

There is currently no cure or effective treatment for coeliac disease, other than avoiding gluten entirely, but there may be hopes for a treatment, with the continuation of a bold trial led by gastroenterologist Dr John Croese.

Dr Croese believes that a certain type of hookworm may be able to positively affect the immune system to reduce the symptoms of coeliac disease. He is now leading an innovative and exclusive study of 60 participants with coeliac disease, who will be administered with up to 10 hookworms through a patch on the back of their hand.

Through this study, Dr Croese hopes to show the presence of this hookworm actually helps to reduce the symptoms of coeliac disease to the point where patients are able to eat gluten again.

Comforting to know, Dr Croese isn’t proposing hookworm larvae as a permanent solution for coeliacs. However, his team hopes to isolate the protein secreted by the hookworm and eventually administer this in capsule form.

So far, early results have been staggering, with many patients now able to eat gluten without adverse side effects. “I actually went out and I went to town and I had pizza and ice-cream, and salad sandwiches and Subway, just all the things I’ve missed for the last 15 years. And I was absolutely fine, it was terrific”, Peter Letheren, one of the patients involved with the pilot study.

We’re proudly supporting Dr Croese on this research project being conduct at The Prince Charles Hospital. If the findings from this study are conclusive, this treatment could open up a new world of food and flavour as well as the reduction of embarrassing symptoms, physical pain and discomfort for coeliac sufferers worldwide!

For more information you can check out their website.

https://www.thecommongood.org.au/

Another article from the common good.

Making more hearts available for transplant

When a family makes the difficult decision to donate their loved ones organs they are hoping that their tragic loss will mean the gift of life for someone in need.

Last year, out of the over 430 donor hearts made available for transplant in Australia only 100 were able to be transplanted due to a number of factors.

Dr Louise See Hoe, part of the Critical Care Research Group at The Prince Charles Hospital, is currently working on a project aimed to increase the number of viable hearts available for transplant by 40%.

By discovering a better way to store and treat donor hearts, the Dr See Hoe and her team hope to prolong the currently small window where a transplant is possible and make more hearts viable for transplant; increasing the number of hearts that can be transplanted each year and saving more lives!

Her team is working with a new kind of storage device that, in theory, can extend the time a heart can be stored and travel without causing undue injury to the heart. So, instead of limiting donor heart travel time to a short four hours, this could be extended up to 24 hours.

This would mean that hospitals could receive hearts from further away, decreasing the tyranny of distance and increasing the chances of saving lives regardless of location.

Known as hypothermic ex-vivo perfusion, this specialized rig is used only by Louise and her team. This rig is expertly designed to cool the donor heart while keeping it alive, flushing it with medicine and limiting injury.

It is hoped that they will be able to improve the function and have more time to assess the heart before it goes to the recipient. Meaning this treatment could be used to improve a heart that may previously have been unable to be used, potentially saving more lives.

In addition to an increase in viable organs for transplant, the results of this study could lead to better outcomes for transplant patients; who will receive their life saving organ in the best condition for transplant.

This project is backed by community support and our Better Business Partnership. The funding provided for the newly established fellowship Louise has received will guarantee the continuation of her vital research.

We’re pleased to be able to offer our support to research projects such as this, projects that will see more lives saved and more families spending Christmas together.

Heart Transplant Facts

On average, an adult will spend approximately 5 hours and 35 minutes waiting in lines each month, sounds like a lot right? Now imagine that one of those lines was for a heart transplant that would save your life…but there were 100 other people waiting in front of you. During 2016 alone over 140 people across Australia and New Zealand were added existing heart transplant waiting lists. This Christmas we want to make more hearts for available for transplant to reduce the wait and give the gift of life to those most in need.

Our Better Business Partnership with @TheCommonGood is helping Dr Louise See Hoe in her quest to increase the number of hearts available for transplant by 40%. The success of this study could see more people each year receive the life-saving transplant they need, turning wait time into ‘LIFE’ time!