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Doctor's heart to help others

Royal Adelaide Hospital surgical resident Dr Bill Papps.

As both a Royal Adelaide Hospital surgical resident and a private citizen, Dr Bill Papps has first hand experience of critical care.

At 18 months of age, Bill had life saving surgery to correct a congenital and rare heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot.

Left undetected and untreated the condition, which causes a lack of oxygen rich blood flowing to the body as a result of four related heart defects, can result in heart failure.

Surgery corrected the immediate risk but post surgery complications resulted in Bill going into cardiac arrest in hospital, for four minutes.

“My mum was actually pregnant at the time and my dad was working long hours in Adelaide at that time and so she was in Melbourne with me when that happened,” he said.

“It was obviously a really difficult and stressful time for her and my dad – they thought they had lost me.”

Associated health problems, including fatigue and complications, can be a life-long legacy of the condition, as can the need for further surgeries. Bill went on to have a normal, healthy childhood – but it has always been with him.

“I remember as a child I didn’t have the exercise capacity everyone else did. And as a teenager it did make me think about health from a different perspective and I was determined to be the best that I could be,” he said.

“I didn’t have any real repercussions for many years - I was running 10kms four or five times a week ….and then one day, I found myself out of breath after a 15 minute walk at a moderate pace.

“That was the first time I really felt mortal. I was checked and my cardiologist suggested it could be arrthymias caused by stress.”

Bill’s health is now what it should be and he has turned his attention to helping others. As well as being a surgical resident, Bill is an ambassador for the charity HeartKids, which supports the lifetime journey of Australian children, teens and adults affected by congenital heart disease.

As an ambassador, Bill shares his personal story, has speaking engagements and provides support and advice to other families affected by congenital heart disease.

In August he participated in a Heart Charity TV challenge in which a select group of HeartKids adults, parents and supporters participated in a physical challenge over a week in Tasmania to raise funds for HeartKids and raise awareness.

“HeartKids is an amazing charity organisation. Congenital heart disease has been a big part of my life and always will be,” Bill said.

“I’m proud to be a HeartKids Ambassador and to help support families who experience what my family and I did, as a child.” 

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