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The Age

Survivor's appeal rose from the heart

Date: 28/08/1998
Words: 334
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 5
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 image-conscious.

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."

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