Surgeon turns lives around
THE recent six-way kidney transplant set in motion by an altruistic donor captured the imagination of the Australian public.
Conducted at four major Melbourne hospitals, the transplant surgeon operating at the Royal Melbourne Hospital was South Gippsland raised and educated Mr Tim Furlong.
Mr Furlong is slightly bemused by all the media attention as such complex operations are part and parcel of his weekly routine.
This Thursday Mr Furlong is doing a three-way kidney transplant which he says “happens all the time.”
Of the six-way exchange he says, “the logistics are far more involved with the timing, access to resources such as the number of operating theatres required, the skilled staff and the possibility of one of the recipients or donors getting sick at the last moment.”
Plus of course the likelihood of an altruistic donor walking in off the street and saying, “I want to donate one of my kidneys.”
Mr Furlong completed his schooling at Leongatha Secondary College and is a Gippslander through and through. He and his wife spend as much time as possible in the region, particularly since they took possession of a holiday house in Inverloch recently.
His interest in medicine goes back to the time he spent as a 16 year old as a Rotary exchange student in the American state of Ohio where one of his hosts, a psychologist, became a role model.
When he returned from his year in the USA, Mr Furlong was able to skip Year 11 and go straight into Year 12 after which he went on to study medicine at Monash University.
Upon completion of his six year medical training, he spent a year as an intern in Ballarat where he experienced great mentors, and gained a broad and positive experience of procedural medicine which led to his decision in 2002 to become a surgeon.
Based at the Royal Melbourne, he rotated through Wangaratta, Horsham and Launceston hospitals.
Qualifying as a general surgeon in 2009, Mr Furlong engaged in two extra years as a transplant fellow and began working as a transplant surgeon in his own right in 2012.
As a member of the general surgical unit at the Royal Melbourne, Mr Furlong also looks after general emergency and trauma surgery.
He is keen to develop and strengthen teaching and training at the hospital and is currently learning how to use the surgical (Da Vinci) robot to perform minimally invasive surgery at the hospital.
There is not a lot of time for interests away from his demanding work, but he nominates his wife Emily and their two children, Hugh, four, and Caitlin, two as his primary interests.
Emily, from Foster, and Tim met at high school when they both played in a concert band; Tim a percussionist and Emily a flautist.
Emily is now a music teacher at Carey Baptist Grammar in Kew.
Staying fit is important to Mr Furlong, and he often rides and sometimes runs the 12 kilometres to work.
In the last couple of years, he has competed in half marathons at Shepparton and Falls Creek and has taken up mountain biking.
Of the future, 36 year old Mr Furlong says, “travelling to South Gippsland is important to me and I hope to set up regular consultancy and operating sessions in the area.
“I am keen to become involved in country health and see it as offering the opportunity to reengage with a community which is impossible in Melbourne.”
When that time comes, Mr Furlong will be a great asset to the community.
All patients involved in the six-way kidney transplant are doing well.
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