Life long bonds

Heart transplant patient and nurse

Heart Transplant Nurse Practitioner Jo Maddicks-Law and Heart Transplant Clinical Nurse Maureen Rogers from The Prince Charles Hospital are proud to be part of a team that makes such a difference to the lives of patients.

Reflectively wading through a photo album of the many patients she has helped, Jo Maddicks-Law is reassured of the difference she has made to the lives of others.

In her 23-year affiliation with The Prince Charles Hospital’s Heart Transplant Service, Jo knows the ups and downs of transplantation. 

Originally appointed as heart transplant coordinator in 1993 and transitioning to Nurse Practitioner for the service in 2009, Jo has seen the many sides of heart transplantation and knows what it takes to give patients a second chance at life.

To mark DonateLife Week from Sunday 2 August to Sunday 9 August, Jo talks about what it is like working in a transplant unit.

“It’s like having a day time job and night time job at one time. It’s certainly not glamorous,” she said.

Despite the hard work, Jo says that the best part of her nursing career was as transplant coordinator for the service.

“It is a complex and busy role. When coordinating, you are responsible for organising and synchronising all aspects of the transplant process.

“This involves getting the patient to the hospital and making sure they are prepped for surgery, organising the organ retrieval team, and ensuring the surgical team are ready to receive the donor heart when it arrives at TPCH.

“All the processes have to be timed perfectly to achieve the best outcome for the patient, but being a complex process with many compounding variables, this is not always so easy.”

Jo’s longstanding association with the service has enabled her not only to view the evolution of the transplant specialty, but has allowed her to develop trusted connections with patients and her own colleagues.

“The goal posts for transplantation have constantly moved. When I first started, patients were told they would probably survive for five years post transplant.

“Now because of improvements in medications and care practices, the average span of survival is 14 years with many patients now into their second decade.

“Our patients are now living longer and are being given more opportunities with their lives. But with age and long term medications comes a range of other complications.

“For this reason, members of the heart transplant team have much longer associations with patients.”

For Jo, this enduring bond has been further strengthened through her role as Nurse Practitioner where she has become ‘the trusted voice at the end of the phone.’

“I know their voices when they ring – they don’t even have to say their name,” she said.

Jo has contact with all patients who undergo a heart transplant at TPCH and those who have had transplants elsewhere, but now live in Queensland.

“Because of the complex nature of post-transplant care, I have regular phone contact with patients who can experience a variety of health issues following transplant.”

Patients are educated to monitor their health and how to recognise when they might have a problem and that they call the unit for advice or help. 

“With transplant, patients can experience problems at any time day or night. My job is to always be available to respond and address problems before they escalate into something much more. It can mean liaising with the patient’s GP, pathology services or local hospital to provide assistance or review.”

For Jo, it’s the personal connection with patients that has always given her the most satisfaction in her career.

“Transplant patients can be with us for a very long time, so we get to know them inside and out. For many patients, we are the people who gave them back a relatively normal life and they want us to be part of it.”

Over the years, Jo and other members of the transplant team have received countless photos and invitations from patients and their families, showing them how far they’ve come.

“This is the greatest reward – seeing patients who were once really sick get better and reach milestones in their own lives. That’s why we come to work every day.”

While Jo is proud to be part of a team that changes the lives of patients, she is not blind to the downsides of transplantation.

“Unfortunately transplantation is not a long term solution. We give patients a second chance at life; but this life can range from two days to 20 plus years,” Jo said. “We are essentially with patients from their transplant until the end of their life. That side of transplantation never gets easier.”

Jo openly praises the strength and cohesiveness of the transplant team as being a guiding force in getting through the more difficult times of transplant.

“We all endure the good and bad times together. We wouldn’t make it without each other.”

To learn more about organ and tissue donation, visit

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