15 years? How about 50! Colin defies expectations of surgeons

Colin McFarlane.
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When Colin McFarlane received Australia’s first prosthetic aortic heart valve implant, he was told it would last about 15 years.

That was an incredible 50 years ago, and now the Jordan Springs local is just months away from his 86th birthday.

His family said he was a mischievous young lad who grew up with his two brothers in Emu Plains.

When McFarlane was eight-years-old, he was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever, an illness which causes inflammation of the heart.

At the age of 14, a medical officer at Penrith High School detected a heart murmur during a health check and sent a letter home recommending he see a specialist.

“That’s what started me going to a professor in Macquarie Street, Sydney, for a long time. They found out about a new heart valve in America,” McFarlane told the Weekender.

“I had to wait about five months for it to arrive, but on December 5, 1973, I went into Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and they replaced the valve.”

When he was 35-years-old, McFarlane was admitted to have a prosthetic aortic heart valve implanted, which was developed by a surgeon and an electrical engineer. His recovery was relatively uneventful, and he was sent home to be with his family for Christmas.

In the years that followed, McFarlane and his wife, Yvonne Thompson, went on to have four children, Cheryl, Graeme, Robert and Margo.

McFarlane said he feels “lucky” to have had the surgery, which dramatically improved his quality of life.

“The heart defect was really affecting my breathing, but after they put the valve in I was back to normal. I didn’t have any pain or any problems with the chest after that,” he said.

“I could go swimming with the kids and do things I couldn’t do before, so that was great.”

McFarlane was told his life expectancy would be reduced as a result of the heart damage, and that the valve was expected to last 10 to 15 years.

Refusing to slow down, he went on to work two jobs before he eventually retired and travelled around Australia in a motorhome.

McFarlane said he is extremely grateful for his heart valve and the great medical care he has received.

He said, despite having a pacemaker and many stents, he is as active as can be.

“I’m the longest living with the valve,” McFarlane said.

“I really appreciate it. They saved my life.”

Makayla Muscat

Formerly with the ABC, Makayla is a graduate of Western Sydney University. She covers a variety of news topics for the Weekender, including courts.

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