Former prime minister Kevin Rudd's new heart valve undergoes first public outing
- From: The Courier-Mail
- August 21, 2011
Kevin Rudd has declared he is fighting fit after his heart surgery and will not be stopped from maintaining his public life.
Speaking for the first time since his heart valve was replaced on August 1, the former prime minister has candidly revealed how he felt before and after surgery, and of his future.
Relaxed and self-deprecating, Mr Rudd, 53, said that having the surgery for the second time was much easier but it still had taken a toll on his body.
"It's like a mule has kicked you in the chest, then they've dropped a Besser Block on you, and then they take out the Black and Decker circular saw, so the body after that is saying, what the?" he told The Sunday Mail while on a walk with son Marcus (pictured) at Noosa yesterday.
"One of the great fears when you have this thing the second time is whether you end up with a narrow gauge railway; I'm basically a single mono rail.
""They (hospital staff) have you walking around from day one after surgery, you've got more tubes coming out of you than the NBN network."
The surgery, at Brisbane's St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital, was a success. He was flooded with well-wishes from international dignitaries and politicians from all sides of the chamber. Movie star Jackie Chan sent "a big bunch of roses".
"If I was trying to do a comparison two to three weeks out from surgery 20 years ago to this time, I'm feeling better and more active (this time) . . . than last time," he said yesterday.
"I put that down to superior physique, but (wife) Therese (Rein) puts it down to advantages in modern medicine . . . I think she's a bit more objective about these things.
"I find today that I can walk longer, exercise longer. Like yesterday (Friday), I went walking on the beach for an hour and three quarters when last week I would have been only walking for about a quarter of an hour."
The Foreign Affairs Minister first had his heart valve replaced 20 years ago. It was removed because of the effects of rheumatic fever that he contracted as a child. The original replacement was human, which has driven Mr Rudd to promote organ donation and set up the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplant Authority. This time it was a beef valve.
"So I'm now Captain Beef Heart . . . I promise not to 'moo' in public," he said.
Mr Rudd said it wasn't stress that caused the replacement, just that the valve had reached its shelf life. "I just started to get a little bit tired, (walking up and down) stairs for example, and that's a sign you've got to starting thinking about replacement."
Yesterday, Mr Rudd, Ms Rein and close family celebrated the 25th birthday of their middle child Nicholas.
And apart from light exercise, Mr Rudd has managed to stay clear of too much work, instead watching "trashy DVDs", including TV series Mad Men and Modern Family. He said he did ring political colleagues regularly but wouldn't reveal who they were.
Mr Rudd will return to the Gillard Government team when he has fully recovered, which he expects will be in a few weeks. He signalled that his political life was nowhere near over and hinted of new things to come.
"Remember that the last 20 years (since the heart replacement valve), I've been a member of Parliament, I've been shadow foreign minister, been the Leader of the Opposition, PM, and now I'm Foreign Minister.
"So that's with the last replacement. There's no physical impediment to what I do in the future. My own assessment of myself is that the place for me is in public life, doing things which make a difference.
"I want to get back to do the things I've been doing and new things as well because I think I can make a difference."