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Robert's transplant journey

Sunday 24 January 2021

When Robert Bliss' health started deteriorating due to cirrhosis of the liver he 'fought like hell' so that at the age of 67 he could be accepted into the liver transplant program at the PA Hospital (PAH).

Diagnosed in 2017 with cirrhosis and small liver cancers, the Cooloola resident received a liver transplant at the PAH in July of 2017.

Robert first went in for his transplant in March of 2017, but after an issue with the donor liver, he had to stay with his sister on the Gold Coast for two months until another donor liver was found. Only days after that successful transplant in May 2017, he developed a staph infection and spent four days in a coma in intensive care, with his heart and kidneys also struggling.

Through his strength and determination and the care of PA Hospital staff, Robert, is now healthy and living an active life which includes giving back to others and enjoying the sport of pistol shooting.

"I had a lot of trouble getting on the program. They said I was too old. To me it was like a red flag at a bull," Robert

"I was right on the edge of being too old for having a transplant. They upped the age by one year just before I had my transplant, so I snuck in, but it was good because I proved them all wrong. I fought like hell. I exercised, I was swimming, I lost 20 kilos. I was doing all sorts of things.

"That's also when I started pistol shooting. I went down to the local club and started pistol shooting and it was good because it took my mind off sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. You sit home and all you do is think the worst. The shooting's been good because you've got to concentrate on shooting paper targets, I'd come home, and I'd feel really good."

Now 70, the ex-serviceman said despite an issue earlier this year, his health is travelling well, which has helped him to enjoy a busy lifestyle which as well as pistol shooting, includes giving back to the community and to the PAH where he was treated as much as he can.

"I just had an appointment with a cardiologist this week, and he said it's remarkable that I have recovered so well, and my heart is back to where it was, if not better than before," he said.

"I volunteered at the local gym too, looking after some stroke patients and I'm keeping an eye on some of the DVA veterans as well, and doing all sorts of stuff. I've been a Welfare Officer with the Rainbow Beach RSL Sub Branch. I've always kept myself busy."

Robert's appreciation for the level of care he was shown by PAH staff has led to him not only becoming a regular donor to the PA Research Foundation but also holding a Facebook fundraiser for the Foundation which has raised more than $400 for liver research.

During his stay at the PAH Robert formed a bond with a number of the staff, and as well as fundraising for the hospital, he has cooked meals and brought them Christmas presents as his own personal thank you.

"I've left curries for the doctors and little Chrissy presents; I've made some chilly jam for them. I even made a curry and dropped it off up to the nurses another day as well," he said.

"Everyone there, they were magnificent.

"It was my birthday and because it came up on the Facebook page, it said if you want to, you can ask for a donation to charity. I thought, why not, because every time I come down, I always go in there and donate $50.

"I thought, I'll give it a go, all my mates, male and female have donated, I was surprised by my old ex-boss from the air force, he threw a $100 in. I only had $300 down there as the mark to get to, and I think it was up to $445, I surpassed the figure that I put down, I was really pleased with that."

"When I first found out I was diagnosed with cirrhosis I went to the Public Trustee and talked about my will. I was looking for somewhere where there's liver research. The Trustee does not have on its books, any associations or anything to do with liver, that's what made me think.

"I walked into PA one day and I just checked, about the research at the PA, and then found out that I could make the money go to liver research through the research foundation, and that's what we've been doing for three years."

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