With more than 20 years experience as a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Mr Peter Skillington has seen many people’s lives transformed, and in some cases saved, by the generous donation of heart valves.
Most of the procedures Mr Skillington performs are on adults with congenital heart conditions. His speciality is aortic valve surgery which applies to the one to two percent of the population who are born with abnormal aortic valves.
Donated heart valves are preferable to the alternative mechanical prosthetics because they ensure far better and longer lasting health outcomes for their recipients. Mechanical heart valve recipients must take anti-coagulant drugs for the rest of their lives and undergo regular check-ups. They can often be prevented from leading active lives and mechanical heart valves may also prevent childbirth.
It’s therefore crucial that the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria is able to supply them to surgeons such as Mr Skillington. He is sure that if tissue donation shared the same profile as organ donation, families would be more receptive to the idea of donation when they’re approached after the death of a loved one.
‘In that situation when they have lost someone, they would know that their loved one’s tissue has been used to enhance or save the life of another,’ Mr Skillington said.