Monday 1 August 2011

Kevin Rudd recovers from successful heart operation to install heart valve from a cow

Kevin Rudd will remain in intensive care for two or three days after successful heart surgery today.

Kevin Rudd

The Foreign Minister this morning underwent a three-hour operation at Brisbane's St Andrews War Memorial Hospital to replace a leaky aortic valve that was inserted almost 20 years ago.

His cardiologist, Dr Malcolm Davison, said the operation to give him a new heart valve from a cow was a success. The new valve is expected to last another 15 to 20 years.

“At this stage we're extremely pleased with his progress. The surgery has gone according to plan and he is in a stable and very satisfactory situation,” Dr Davison told reporters in Brisbane.

Mr Rudd's wife, Therese Rein, said he was expected to make a full recovery from the “grease and oil change” and was expected to return to work in eight weeks.

While Mr Rudd will remain in intensive care for up to three days, he could be walking as soon as tomorrow morning.

The surgery replaced a leaky human aortic valve that was inserted in 1993 after a childhood brush with rheumatic fever.

Ms Rein said she hoped the high-profile surgery would stoke household discussions about organ donation.

“Have the conversation tonight over dinner about being an organ donor and to talk to your family about that so that everyone in the family is really clear. Gifting organs saves lives and enables people to go on and do remarkable things, as Kevin has done, so please go have that conversation tonight.”

Cardiac specialist and Australasian Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons president Julian Smith doubted Mr Rudd's busy life as a politician would have negatively impacted on his original replacement heart valve.
“It's not as if he put strain on it himself by being a busy politician; it inherently, slowly deteriorates over 20 years,” Professor Smith said.

“If you really stressed yourself with vigorous physical exercise, that might contribute.” However, a busy, stressful life was not enough to cause damage.

Mr Rudd, famed for getting by on only three hours' sleep when he was prime minister, has kept up the pace this year as Foreign Minister, undertaking numerous trips abroad.

When he last month revealed he would need the surgery, Mr Rudd vowed to recontest the next election as Labor's candidate for the southside Brisbane seat of Griffith.

“I intend to continue to make whatever contribution I can to Australian public life through the government following the next election.”

Julia Gillard earlier sent her cabinet colleague a cheerio during a Brisbane radio interview.

She'd spoken to him about the operation and had passed on her best wishes for a speedy recovery.

“He's got a real sense of confidence having been through it before,” Ms Gillard told ABC Radio.

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