David’s Story


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David Curnow was a fit, 35 year old father of two daughters aged 20 months and almost 3 months when he underwent heart bypass surgery.

Prior to his surgery he led an active, healthy lifestyle; running almost daily and competing in half marathons. About a month before his surgery he had been experiencing chest pains during runs.

“At first I thought I was just having an off day and would try to push through. However the frequency of the chest pains increased, even while relaxing at home watching Masterchef.”

Two of David’s work colleagues, one in his 30s the other in his 50s had died from heart attacks in 2011 so he was very worried. Not being a “typical” heart attack candidate, GPs had failed to diagnose any problem.

In Australia today it is estimated that one third of all Australians will die from some form of coronary artery disease.

A chance conversation with a good friend, Baird Institute surgeon Associate Professor Michael Vallely, led to an appointment with a cardiologist, Professor Ian Wilcox, and a few days later a heart bypass performed by Professor Paul Bannon.

“I was diagnosed as having a 99% blockage in my left anterior descending artery – also known as the ‘widow maker’.

“I was told it was only a matter of a week or two before I would have suffered a massive and likely fatal heart attack. I am so grateful that Professor Bannon was available to perform my surgery so soon. The alternative does not bear thinking.”

In Australia diseases of the heart, lungs and blood vessels kill more people than any other disease. These diseases can affect people of any age at any time – even babies and young children. Severe coronary heart disease at present is predominantly treated by surgery.

The Baird Institute is unique among medical research organisations. We are the only group in Australia to focus entirely on clinical and surgical cardiothoracic conditions. Our focus is ALL diseases of the heart, lung, chest wall and diaphragm that are treatable with surgery. Our commitment is to the patients who have been diagnosed with these serious conditions and require surgery.

While research into heart and lung disease is being done, little time, effort and money is directed to improvements in surgical techniques for the most frequently diagnosed forms of heart and lung disease. The Baird Institute strives for better patient outcomes by improving clinical practice, testing new methods of surgery and ensuring that post-operative care is the best it can be. Our focus is on supporting patients and reducing the overall burden of health care on the community.

“Three months on from my surgery I have resumed my normal activities and have eased back into running.”

“I have spoken to other heart bypass patients and I am so pleased that I received a mammary artery graft which will, as far as anyone knows, last me the rest of my life.”

“No one is safe from cardiovascular disease. This experience has changed my life. The greatest lesson is to listen to your body if things do not seem quite right.”

“I cannot adequately express how thankful I am for the vital work conducted by the Baird Institute to develop new techniques to improve surgical outcomes for people in my situation.”