BORN with a hole between the two atria of his heart, and with the vital organ essentially operating back to front, Mike Lambe has always known he would one day need a heart transplant.
His condition, transposition of the greater vessels, makes him a one-in-a-million case – few others like him have been lucky enough to live a full and active life.
Most exist in a vegetative state, or have very limited mobility.
Until the age of 38, Mike, an occupational therapist, was fit and active, and particularly loved playing beach volleyball.
When he began tiring quickly and becoming short of breath well ahead of his partner, Mike knew his condition was catching up with him.
Over four years, Mike’s ability to carry on a normal life deteriorated to the point where he could not walk more than 200 metres without feeling as though he was going to collapse.
He was listed for a heart transplant and only waited 11 months for a donor heart to become available.
While his primary condition rendered his heart ineffective, it also had a knock-on effect to his lungs, with the transposed left atrium pumping blood into his lungs instead of circulating to the rest of his body.
He developed pulmonary arterial hypertension and received new lungs along with his heart just over six months ago.
Since then, Mike’s health has been variable, with rejection and infection issues in his new lungs sending him to hospital twice.
While the 43-year-old considers himself very lucky, Mike is one of many lung transplant patients hoping for a breakthrough that will help them avoid being hospitalised quite so often.
With the McCusker Charitable Foundation providing $60,000 in funding, WA researchers are looking at why small airways in the lungs do not heal properly following transplantation.