Last Friday, after multiple surgeries and treatments, Adam Retmock told his wife Kelly Richards: “I’m done. I cannot continue this level of suffering.”
He died later that day.
Eight weeks earlier, he had been “relieved, grateful and positive” about his prospects for an improved life.
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Retmock, 45, was born with a congenital heart disease.
He had a heart transplant at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital in September.
“The transplant seemed to go really well, in the first instance,” Richards told 7NEWS.
“We were told the organ was a very, very good match for Adam and the surgery had gone really seamlessly.
“We were incredibly grateful. We were incredibly grateful to the donor’s family, in particular, because it is such a compassionate and selfless thing to do, to donate an organ to somebody.
“We were incredibly grateful to the wonderful hospital team who are absolutely world-class.
“It was a massive thing to go through, but (we were) really relieved it had happened, and grateful and positive about the future.”
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Adam Retmock died after contracting a fungal infection while recovering from a heart transplant at Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane. Credit: 7NEWS
A week after the operation, Retmock’s health took a turn for the worse.
He had a “number of complications”, according to Richards, including that he had contracted a fungal infection.
“We were initially told they weren’t particularly concerned about that … that it was really nothing to worry about, which was a huge relief,” she said.
“But very quickly following on the heels of that conversation, it became apparent it was something very serious and it was real panic stations.”
A “whole range of specialists” attempted to treat the infection, which the couple were told “was very difficult” to do.
He was given antifungal medication, antibiotics and had an operation to remove infected tissue which involved surgeons breaking his sternum.
About two weeks before his death, Retmock was informed he was among a five-person cluster of heart transplant patients who had contracted fungal infections at the Chermside hospital.
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What staff didn’t reveal, Richards said, was that one of those patients had died.
Retmock found out about the fatality through the media.
“He should have found out from the hospital,” Richards said.
“He was a very brave person. He was the bravest person I have ever known.
“He has endured so much in his life.
“But it was terrifying to find that out on the news … how serious the problem was.”
It was revealed last week three of the affected patients developed their infection before September, while two more cases occurred last month.
7NEWS understands one of the patients died of multiple complications in September. The fungal infection is believed to have possibly contributed to their death.
Adam Retmock’s widow Kelly Richards has spoken of his death. Credit: 7NEWS
Air quality testing in the hospital has not found levels of fungal spores that would warrant concerns of infection, the hospital’s infectious disease expert Alex Chaudhuri said last week.
He said “some fungal spores” were found in a storage area for transplant equipment, but he did not believe the discovery was connected to the infection.
Four strains of fungal infection have been found in the patients and 7NEWS understands at least one of the strains is the same as that found at the hospital.
Queensland government’s Metro North Hospital and Health Service expressed “sincere condolences” to Retmock’s family but said “no link” between the hospital and the “fungal infections identified in the five heart transplant patients” had been established after “extensive testing”.
“It is understood the patient was experiencing several complications following the transplant,” spokesperson Jane Hancock said.
“Transplant patients are some of our most vulnerable patients and can be susceptible to various illnesses and infections in the community, especially once they return home.
“We continue to work transparently and engage with all transplant patients. We want patients to know that we have taken all precautions to keep them safe when in the community.”
Three of the patients in the cluster are being treated by hospital staff, with two of them at home.
The third patient “is recovering in hospital from an unrelated clinical issue”, Hancock said.
Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said last week she was aware of the cluster and has been told the hospital “is safe”.
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