Meet some of the people who have benefited from a PlusLife graft:
Sally Couch counts her blessings every day – and the anonymous bone donor who gave her a new lease on life.
After living in crippling pain with scoliosis since the age of 16, the mother-of-three was facing the prospect of living in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
But three years ago, the 56-year-old grandmother had a life-changing total spinal fusion, thanks to a woman who donated her hip bone after hip replacement surgery.
“I was in crippling pain from scoliosis all my life to the point that I could hardly walk,” Mrs Couch said. “It was a crippling, cruel situation. It was horrendous.
“But after the operation the change was amazing. I went from being unable to walk far and being housebound to having a whole new lease on life. I couldn’t even lift my grandchildren to give them a cuddle and now I’m babysitting them and enjoying being a Grandma.
“The work of PlusLife really is so important, I didn’t even know the bone and tissue bank existed until I needed it,” she said. “The bone graft donation I received was a lifesaver in every sense of the word.”
In May 2014, when he was just 11 years old, Angus was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma – a form of bone cancer that primarily affects children and adolescents.
For several weeks, Angus had been feeling pain in his left lower leg. When a small lump developed, his mother took him to their GP who ordered an x-ray.
The x-ray failed to show anything of significance, but they knew something was seriously wrong. Angus went to Princess Margaret Hospital where he had an MRI which confirmed the worst – he had a 10 cm long tumour in his left tibia.
The following week, Angus began an intensive chemotherapy program. For 3 months before surgery, and 6 months after, he spent his life in and out of hospital undergoing chemo until he could have surgery to remove the cancerous bone. He spent a total of 130 days in hospital for chemotherapy.
In October 2014, Angus had the section of affected bone removed from his leg and received a donor bone from PlusLife which was inserted in its place and secured with a plate.
The operation was successful and the donor bone began fusing with Angus’ bone. His recovery was going well until Angus suffered a setback when he broke the plate in leg after a fall on the school bus. Angus had further surgery to replace the broken plate then resumed his rehabilitation.
Angus and his family are extremely grateful to PlusLife, the donor, and the donor’s family for giving him the opportunity to receive a bone graft. Without it, he would be facing a lifetime of surgeries, growth problems, and possible amputation of his leg.
Angus is currently in remission and is looking forward to being a normal boy and doing all the things he was able to do before cancer struck.
He has recently started employment at a major supermarket opening in our area and has returned to full time school after much time away due to treatment.
In February 2012, when Logan was just two years old, he was running and jumping onto the lounge at home. He slipped and broke his left arm.
Logan’s humerus was broken just below the growth plate and due to the site of the fracture he was referred to a specialist at Princess Margaret Children’s Hospital.
During routine scans on Logan’s arm, doctors found a benign bone cyst and, while it didn’t pose an immediate threat, they asked Logan’s mum to keep an eye on it.
Logan’s broken bone was healing but he began to lose movement in his arm. Within 2 months, he couldn’t move his arm at all and had to wear a sling.
During a follow up appointment, doctors found the cyst on Logan’s bone had multiplied and was growing rapidly. The cysts were pressing on his nerves which were affecting the movement in his arm.
Logan underwent surgery to remove the cysts – benign, but tumor like lesions. Unfortunately, the cysts returned larger and more aggressive, and Logan had another two rounds of surgery.
In each of Logan’s surgeries, he received bone graft from PlusLife.
The cysts, combined with the absence of movement, caused Logan’s bones to become thin and weak – similar to eggshells. During his recovery, Logan broke his left wrist twice in six months, further delaying his progress towards recovery as his arm was in a sling yet again.
Now, three years later, Logan still has cysts on his humerus, but they are not growing or affecting the use of his arm.
Logan was extremely brave throughout his journey. He is a very happy little boy and both he and his family are extremely grateful to the donor and to PlusLife for providing the bone grafts that he received.
Harry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in June 2010. He had been getting some pain in his left arm for a couple of weeks, and eventually he started to wake in the night crying in pain. It was at this point his mother thought that there was obviously something wrong and decided they should take him to the doctor.
Within a week of going to see the doctor, Harry had been sent for an x-ray, blood tests, a CT scan, MRI, bone scan and biopsy. The family was then told that Harry had osteosarcoma – although they knew something was wrong it was an unexpected shock.
Treatment started shortly after and this consisted of 10 weeks of chemotherapy. After 10 weeks, harry had surgery on his arm to remove the tumour. As the tumour was located near his shoulder joint, they had to remove the shoulder joint and also part of his humerus.
The humerus was replaced with a donor bone from the bone bank. The surgeons also removed the fibula from his left leg and put this in this arm to act as a live bone graft. The donor bone was screwed into place, and the leg bone placed in the arm. After 18 hours the surgery was finally over.
When Harry was diagnosed, his family did not know that there was a bone bank in Perth. They will always be grateful to the person who donated the bone; and the bone bank for storing it, as without the donor bone Harry’s options would have been very different. Limb salvage surgery wouldn’t have been an option without the graft; and Harry would have had to have his arm amputated.
Harry spent a long time in his wheel chair and on crutches. The arm healed well, but the leg took a while and he later had to have it re-operated on.
4 weeks after surgery, Harry began another phase of chemotherapy (20 weeks). Harry was amazing throughout his surgery and many weeks of treatment, and coped with it all extremely well.
In March 2011 he finished his chemotherapy treatment; and has now been cancer free for 5 years.
Ashleigh’s dream of becoming an elite gymnast seemed all but lost after suffering a back spasm during a practice session which was later diagnosed as the result of scoliosis. Within only a few months, scans showed the curvature of her spine was progressing rapidly, leaving Ashleigh far from the healthy active teenager she once was.
The initial treatment of a back brace was trialed but unfortunately did little to correct the 48 degree lumbar curve leaving her so debilitated. It was then Ashleigh and her parents were advised surgery was the only option. Metal rods were inserted and her spine then fused using bone graft generously donated by patients undergoing hip replacement surgery. Post-operatively Ashleigh has regained much of her flexibility and remains grateful to the anonymous people who made her recovery that much easier.
As a result of her experience, Ashleigh works works within the health profession so as to assist others.
In 1993 when Jenni was 28 years old, she was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in her right leg. She underwent 3 months of chemotherapy before she had major surgery to remove the bone tumour - during which she received a large bone graft from the Perth Bone and Tissue Bank. The surgery took 15 hours, saving her leg from amputation.
Following surgery, Jenni underwent weeks of further chemotherapy treatment. Jenny knows she would not have been able to save her leg without receiving the bone graft; something she says has made a huge difference in her life. She is especially grateful to the donor family who agreed to donation after losing a loved family member; but also to her surgeon, the Bone Bank and for the great support she received from family and friends.
After 5 years of annual check-ups, Jenni was given the all clear and has led a very fulfilling life since. Jenni returned to full time work, and has managed to maintain a good work/life balance; still doing all the things she was able to do before the surgery.
Jenni has been married now for 16 years and has two healthy children Rebecca (14) who is a very keen jazz pianist and classical guitarist, and Thomas (11) who is a passionate soccer player. They are pictured here with Jenny’s mother Jan who herself has some association with tissue donation.
Jenni’s mother Jan has had two hip replacements, and each time she has donated her femoral head to the Bone Bank. Jan didn’t hesitate when asked if she would like to donate, knowing that she could help someone else in need, just as Jenni had been helped by a generous stranger.
Jenni said “I will be forever grateful to the donor family and everyone involved in my surgery, and feel that organ and tissue donation is something that the whole family should discuss and support”.
In March 2017 at the age of 12, Bianca was diagnosed with a large aneurysmal bone cyst in her right femur, after suffering constant, excruciating leg pain for many years. A keen dancer, Bianca’s pain compromised her beloved hip hop and jazz dance classes, which she attended four times a week.
Shortly after her diagnosis, Bianca underwent surgery to remove the cyst and transplant a donor bone graft into her femur. She was recovering well, until an x-ray revealed another cyst just above the original site. The second cyst was removed the following January, and another donor bone graft transplanted into Bianca’s leg.
Bianca and her family are incredibly grateful for the bone grafts she received and acknowledge the profound impact of bone donation on Bianca’s quality of life.
“Bianca loves to dance,” Bianca’s mother said.
“I hate to think of the limitations Bianca would have had to live with if bone donations were not available.
“If it wasn’t for the bone donations Bianca received, there’s no way she would be up and about now. It’s so wonderful this technology and medical knowhow is available to make such life-changing benefits to people’s lives.”
In the week before her final Year 12 exams in 2017, Chloe was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left femur.
Just four days after completing her exams, Chloe was whisked away to surgery to remove the tumour, with doctors transplanting allograft bone and a metal rod into her thigh.
Chloe had visited her GP the previous July after noticing a lump in her left thigh and experienced tiredness, which she suspected was due to low iron. Not concerned about the lump, the GP gave Chloe a referral for an ultrasound, in case the lump grew or became painful.
But by October, the lump was feeling sore. An x-ray showed some abnormalities but did not raise the concerns of the radiographer. It was not until her mother, Ros, sought a second opinion that a CT scan revealed the low grade tumour.
Chloe and her family are incredibly grateful for her bone graft, and call on others to consider becoming tissue donors.
“PlusLife is such an important organisation. I cannot begin to understand what life would have been like if it was not around to help. Without the selfless donor and this amazing organisation, my prognosis may have been very different,” Chloe said.