By PHILIP CHANDLER
A popular former Queenstown bar manager’s surviving ‘‘hand to mouth’’ in Australia while he waits for a heart transplant.
Dean Cavanagh, who’s relying on a mechanical heart in the interim, say he’s down to his
last $400 as he waits, seemingly in vain, for assistance from either the Australian or New Zealand governments.
The 63-year-old, who’s staying in Sydney with his sister and brother-in-law, admits he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.
It seems he’s not getting help from the Aussie government because he’s a Kiwi, and not getting help from NZ’s government because he’s in Australia.
He also says he can’t travel back to NZ because of his health.
‘‘I can do short-distance flights but a trans-Tasman flight would just about do me in.’’
Cavanagh — who left for Australia four years ago after 20-odd years in Queenstown — says he applied for an Aussie disability benefit five months ago but, despite making follow-up calls every two weeks, hasn’t got anywhere.
He’s also talked to NZ’s Work and Income international services team, ‘‘and they said I’ve got to be approved by Australia, and until I get app roved I’m not eligible for anything’’.
Hoping for new heart before cash runs out
Cavanagh says he could be waiting four to 18 months for a new heart to be donated — ‘‘four to six months seems to be the average time lately’’.
He’s very grateful for family accommodating him, ‘‘but they can’t sort of do it forever’’.
‘‘Hopefully I get a heart before I run out of money.’’
Early this year he launched a gofundme page, however he only raised $1595, well short of his $15,000 target.
He says he suffered a cardiac arrest when he was only 28 or so.
Thanks to medication he fully recovered, but then started having breathing problems seven years ago.
‘‘Basically, what happened is the heart just wore out.’’
After struggling with stairs last year, he was admitted to hospital and was given a mechanical heart, the power source for which sits outside of his body.
‘‘It runs the left ventricle because mine is down about 15% of capacity, so you can’t survive when it’s that low.’’
He says he had two month-long spells in hospital last year, and then had another week there recently, due to a TIA, or mini-stroke.
‘‘That sort of put my going on the waiting list on hold.’’
Cavanagh’s first wife, Queenstowner Deb McLean, says he’s in ‘‘a terrible blimmin’ position’’.
‘‘He’s stuck in Australia, they’re saying, ‘he’s a Kiwi’, and the Kiwis are saying, ‘well, you’re in Australia’, and so he’s got absolutely no help.’’
While waiting for a heart transplant, ‘‘he’s in a holding pattern — he can’t work, he’s running out of money, he’s just in a bit of a sad place’’.
Cavanagh’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org