Richard Sutton enjoys the pleasures of his Burkes garden
again after a recent double lung transplant. Photo by
Former storeman Richard Sutton still isn't leaping tall
buildings with a single bound, but is well aware that a recent
double lung transplant has saved his life.
Mr Sutton (49), who has cystic fibrosis, knew things were
getting bad earlier this year when he could barely walk five
or six metres inside his Dunedin house without having to grab
the back of a chair as he fought to draw breath.
Since being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 3
months, he has always been keen on physical exercise:
walking, swimming, and riding horses for 16 years until he
could do it no longer, and going to the gym.
But early this year, even routine activities like getting
dressed were getting too hard.
''It was getting impossible. I was just so out of breath.''
''I thought I might make it to next year.
''Looking back, I would not have lived that long.
'' I just got to the stage where I could not clear my lungs
and medication was not working.''
And his life did not feel immediately different when he woke
after his big operation at Auckland Hospital on July 26,
having become the 176th person in this country to undergo a
Since the operation there has been a lot of painstaking
rehabilitation, including an initial two months in Auckland,
gradually building up his fitness and ability to exercise.
Commenting yesterday during Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Week,
also called Bubbles Week, Mr Sutton said he was still not
completely well, but was grateful to be able to walk again
and to tend his garden.
''It's just nice to be able to walk.''
And he has since done ''a lot of walking'', sometimes up to
2km, which was previously impossible.
Today is the second day of Cystic Fibrosis Otago's annual
street appeal. Mr Sutton is one of the oldest people in Otago
with cystic fibrosis to have received a lung transplant.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects most
critically the lungs, but also the pancreas, liver and
Thick mucus often causes breathing problems, and related
persistent infections contribute to progressive lung damage.
Lung transplants are often needed when people are in their
30s or earlier.
Cystic Fibrosis Otago chairman Julian Cox said Mr Sutton was
a ''shining example'' of the benefits of regular physical
exercise for everyone, including those with cystic fibrosis,
and of the value of taking medication diligently and
undergoing the required regular physiotherapy treatment.
His case also highlighted the importance of lung transplants
and the need to improve New Zealand's relatively low rate of
organ donation, Mr Cox said.