GREG Doran leans back in his dentist’s chair, pats his chest and smiles: “I’ve got a good one”.
It’s been 23 years since the globetrotting medico had his ailing heart removed and transplanted with the heart of a 26-year-old triathlete.
A former top-flight AFL player, Dr Doran had a massive heart attack and collapsed on the footy field during a game in 1978.
The prognosis was grim: radically alter your lifestyle or risk being dead by 50.
“I was a heavy smoker, I had stress, I was overweight – I was the perfect candidate,” Dr Doran said.
Over the next decade, Dr Doran oscillated between being healthy and so ill he could scarcely get out of bed.
In 1990, at just 49, he received the news that would change his life forever – he required an urgent heart transplant.
“Your immediate reaction is to utter a whole lot of four-letter words,” Dr Doran said.
“The only thing I knew about heart transplants was meeting Fiona Coote.
“I remember asking the doctor, ‘does this mean the end?’ and he said ‘St Vincent’s like to think it’s a new beginning’.”
His recovery was stunning.
Two days after the operation, he walked for the first time in three months and two days later he was in the gym.
Within 10 weeks, he was back running a university department.
“It was like a whole new world,” he said.
“It’s just amazing. People always ask me what it’s like to have a new heart and all I can say is that I’m eternally grateful.”
At 73, Dr Doran says he feels half his age and is working full-time at his surgery,Parkside Dental Care.
He said while he was heartened by figures released this week showing organ donation rates were at their highest level in national history, there was still much to be done.
“Only a couple of years ago, Australia had the lowest donor rate in the world,” Dr Doran said.
“The fact is organ donation saves lives. Why bury or burn your good bits when you could help someone else.”