Fiona Coote is not Australia's youngest heart transplant recipient any
more. She's a grown-up now and other children have had transplants at a younger
age than when she had hers.
But the tag of youngest recipient - hammered into public consciousness by
saturation coverage of a heart transplant she received at 14 in 1984 - won't
leave her. It has become her career.
Without that pioneering transplant, and a second one in 1986, she would
probably have grown up to live a simple life in the bush where she grew up, near
Tamworth, New South Wales.
Instead, she is renovating the Sydney house she shares with her advertising
executive husband, performing charity work, doing yoga, learning golf and
promoting cholesterol-free milk and ice-cream for money.
``The opportunities and the life it allowed me to lead are much better than
anything I would otherwise had," she said in Melbourne yesterday.
Ms Coote, 28, hated early media appearances - she was shy and
Now a seasoned performer, she was on the publicity round to promote Monday's
White Rose Day, which will raise money for the Victor Chang Cardiac Research
Institute's Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Cardiac Research Laboratory.
Monday is the anniversary of the Princess' death last year.
The executive director of the institute, Professor Bob Graham, said the money
raised would help research into heart muscle disease and sudden cardiac death.
In particular, the institute was trying to understand heart cells, which do
not divide like other cells, and hoping to induce them to divide so that bad
heart muscle could regenerate, Professor Graham said.
This was particularly important because there were not enough heart donors to
meet the demand for transplants, he said.
``For every Fiona Coote that gets one, there are 10 that do not."