By JR on Sunday, April 19, 2009
The "caring" one above
A SYDNEY woman who has been told she has six months to live will try to raise more than $2 million for life-saving surgery in the United States after her plea for government funding was rejected. Pauline Talty, 36, from Kellyville, was told on Thursday she would not receive money to have a small bowel transplant in Pittsburgh, under the Federal Government's Medical Treatment Overseas Program, because the operation could be performed at an Australian hospital. Specialists at Melbourne's Austin Hospital, while trained in the procedure, have never performed a bowel transplant because of a lack of donor bowels.
Ms Talty has short bowel syndrome, which developed after her intestines were damaged from radiotherapy she received for treatment of childhood cancer of the kidney.
She said having the operation in Melbourne would put her at "risk of serious complication or even death". "My case is very complex and I don't want to be their first one. I only get one shot at this and if the Austin messes it up, I die. I don't get a second chance."
Due to Ms Talty's stunted bowel growth from radiotherapy, she needs a child's bowel, but Professor Bob Jones, head of the Austin's liver transplant program, told her she may have to wait years for a donor. The average wait for a child's bowel in the US is 240 days. "I don't have years. I was told in October that I have 12 months to live and I have just wasted five months trying to appeal the Government's decision.
"In Pittsburgh, they have been doing this for 20 years and have a 96 per cent success rate, which they have only achieved in the past few years. They have an abundance of bowels so I am not giving up."
The federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, said: "I have real admiration for Pauline Talty, for her courage, and determination and I know this must be an incredibly difficult time for her. [But] there are clear, established guidelines for assessing applications under this program … which all applicants must meet."
Ms Talty, who was a business strategist before she became ill, has been in Royal North Shore and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals for 13 months. She is fed through tubes in her chest and groin. Ms Talty has already raised about $200,000 for her living expenses and nursing care while in the US but is now appealing to the public for money to pay for the bowel surgery.
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