The long-awaited call that changed my life

IT was about 3.30am when Glenda Coulthard awoke suddenly in her bed at Wodonga hospital, the muffled voices of nurses in the corridor just audible.

When one came into her room, she knew it was the news she’d been waiting for: “There’s a pair of lungs for me, isn’t there?”

With that, Ms Coulthard was whisked to Melbourne for the transplant surgery that would literally change her whole life.

That was five years ago — up until that day, the Wodonga woman needed oxygen to get through each day living with the rare genetic disease she’d been diagnosed with 13 years earlier, alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency.

Walking as far as the mailbox was near impossible and her lung capacity was down to 16 per cent.

“When you have a lung disease its like you’re drowning, but without the water,” she said.

“No one ever imagines they’re going to need a transplant ... if you told me I would one day I’d have never believed you.

“But you can’t let it rule your life, you have to be positive and keep going.”

And so it is that today, the 62-year-old can walk without trailing a heavy oxygen tank behind her, her lung capacity an astonishing 109 per cent.

“Just to be able to walk without oxygen and talk without getting breathless ... it’s fantastic,” she said.

“I have four grandkids that I never thought I’d get to see.”

Ms Coulthard is now the Border’s ambassador for the Heart and Lung Transplant Trust Victoria, which next week will host a dinner in Albury to coincide with its major fund-raiser, Tour de Transplant.

The tour will see 25 cyclists, including Australian Tour de France legend Phil Anderson, set out on Saturday to ride 1100 kilometres around Victoria — one kilometre to represent each of the 1100 Victorians who have received new hearts and lungs since transplant procedures started at Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital in 1989.

They’re aiming to raise $150,000 to go toward crucial, affordable accommodation near the hospital for transplant 


Ms Coulthard knows first-hand the value of such a facility.

Following a transplant, patients need to have daily appointments for up to three months.

That meant Ms Coulthard had to spend about $130 a day on somewhere to stay, but this accommodation would reduce that to $15 a night.

The cycling tour will arrive in Albury on Tuesday with the dinner at the Commercial Club that night.

Tickets are $50 and include a three-course meal, entertainment, guest speakers and a charity auction.

To buy tickets or donate to the auction, phone 0431 709 547 or 0429 119 068.

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