Seventy is a milestone birthday for anyone, but for Richard Winchester, it’s one that he is very proud of, considering when he was a toddler there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether he would even reach adulthood.
In 1952, at four years of age, Richard underwent pioneering heart surgery at the RCH to treat funnel chest, a condition that can cause a child’s ribs and breastbone to grow inward, giving the chest wall a sunken appearance. In some cases, the condition is merely cosmetic, in others it can lead to serious complications involving the heart and lungs.
For Richard, it was the latter, and he spent six weeks under the care of Russell Howard and the RCH cardiology team. He underwent a further heart surgery at 17 years of age.
“The condition is genetic, I had a more severe case…My ribs were ingrown and it wouldn’t allow my heart to grow,” Richard said.
Defying all the odds, Richard has lived with very few health issues and was constantly active, even going on to run as a boundary umpire in his teenage years.
As a thanks to the hospital, and to the surgeons who changed the course of his life, Richard has decided to leave a Gift in his Will to the RCH.
“The fact that I may not have lived to adulthood, and then I got to 60 and that was a milestone…and then I was very proud that I got to 70 and I’m semi-fit – it’s thanks to this hospital,” Richard said.
“I’m single, I don’t have any dependents and my sisters are well established, so I wanted to give back as the surgeons kept me alive and without the surgery I may not be here or in this fit condition.”
In recent years, a new but related cardiac issue has arisen for Richard. He was diagnosed with Mitral valve prolapse, which affects the valve between the left heart chambers and can cause breathlessness, among other things.
To treat the condition there is a possibility he will need to undergo keyhole surgery, which is a far cry from the two major heart surgeries he underwent as a child.
“Both surgeries when I was younger were open heart, and whilst I don’t remember the first one as I was so young, I remember when I was 17 it took me years before I had full movement of my arms,” Richard said.
Richard, who now lives in Queensland, is still working as a film production accountant, and enjoys walking and keeping active.