Rebecca Craven of Coolangatta, pictured showing a scar from heart surgery in June 2015.
Rebecca Craven of Coolangatta, pictured showing a scar from heart surgery in June 2015. Alina Rylko

Doctor urges donors to come forward as former model survives on heart machine

TWEED residents are being urged to consider becoming organ donors as the plight of Coolangatta model Rebecca Craven strikes a chord.

Tweed Hospital’s director of intensive care Dr Mike-Lindley Jones has called on the community to talk through their decisions on organ donation, to help save and transform more lives.

His call came after former top model Rebecca Craven shared her story with the Tweed Daily News on Tuesday.

BEC THE BIONIC WOMAN WAITS FOR A NEW HEART

The once-healthy model was struck by a debilitating heart disease after catching a mystery virus while on holiday in Bali in November 2013.

The brave model is not afraid to share her personal experience to highlight the need for organ donation.
The brave model is not afraid to share her personal experience to highlight the need for organ donation. Alina Rylko

Aged just 26, Ms Craven is now pinning her hopes on receiving a new heart via organ donation, after the virus attacked her left ventricle, leaving her dependent upon a machine to live.

“Bali is quite a dirty place. The water is not clean, you have to watch where you eat and drink,” Ms Craven said.

“I’d been there so many times, I knew all those things. This time around I got Bali belly.

“I was sick before I went over and came back worse.

“They thought I had pneumonia but the virus was being mistaken for pneumonia. (Then) I had heart failure.”

Rebecca Craven is a successful model, having being photographed by Vogue and walked on the runway for Roxy swimwear.
Rebecca Craven is a successful model, having being photographed by Vogue and walked on the runway for Roxy swimwear. Alina Rylko

A year ago, in a procedure Ms Craven was told is more complex than a heart transplant, she underwent open heart surgery to have a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted inside her chest.

“I feel like a bionic woman,” Ms Craven said.

“I'm living off a machine that pumps my heart for me.”

Ms Craven is now forced to stay within two hours of Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital, where twice a week she undergoes tests while waiting in a 1600-strong national organ donation queue.

“Mentally, waiting for an organ is probably the hardest thing,” she said.

“I wouldn't be so upset if I had a date when I would have a transplant.”

Rebecca Craven with her brother James Craven, 23.
Rebecca Craven with her brother James Craven, 23. Alina Rylko

About 100 hearts are transplanted in Australia every year, with the scarcity of suitable organs meaning many more patients miss out.

Dr Lindley-Jones urged residents to learn more about organ donation.

“This is a heart-wrenching story,” Dr Lindley-Jones said.

“I hope it turns out well for Bec.”

There are many misconceptions around organ donation, often fuelled by movies and media.

“The whole process is, in fact, caring and respectful.

“The quality of care for a potential donor at the end of his or her life, and the wishes of their family, is always the foremost consideration.

“It is is never compromised by the potential for organ and tissue donation.”

Dr Lindley-Jones said organ donation was made all the more difficult by the fact less than 1% of people died in circumstances where donation is possible.

“Hence each individual donor is extremely valuable to people like Bec,” he said.

He urged potential donors to talk with their family and register with Medicare.



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