Saving the lives of at least 100 East Timorese has earned Warrnambool cardiologist Noel Bayley a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday honour list.
Dr Bayley flew out to East Timor again last week where for 15 years he has been running free clinics to help stem the tide of untreated heart disease in young people.
“I’ve done over 30 trips. For the first seven or eight years I did it by myself with some help from friends and colleagues,” he said.
Now he has a team of volunteers with five other cardiologists volunteering their time to help run clinics in East Timor.
Those that they can’t help over there they bring to Australia for life-saving operations.
”About seven years ago we started a charity, The East Timor Hearts Fund, and since then that’s allowed the work to become progressively larger in volume and also we’ve started to do other things apart from direct patient care including providing Penicillin prophylaxis to people with rheumatic heart disease,” Dr Bayley said.
“Rheumatic heart disease is very common in Timor and it kills a lot of young people and if they’re on Penicillin it seems to reduce the risks of further attacks of rheumatic fever and reduce valvular heart disease.”
He has also been involved in studies of rheumatic heart disease which have resulted in some significant scientific papers.
“The focus for East Timor Hearts fund is trying to save the lives of young Timorese,” he said.
“Probably my proudest statement will be that there are at least 100 young Timorese that are alive and well that would be dead if I hadn’t started this 15 yeas ago.”
Dr Bayley said he did not set out to make his work in East TImor as big as it had become.
“It just bascially evolved. One thing led to another, then another and here we are,” he said.
He said the biggest problem the East Timor Hearts Fund faced was raising money.
“Actually getting the procedures done costs quite significant money and that’s a constant struggle to raise the funds,” he said.
He said he was surprised by the AM and saw it as an award for the East Timor Hearts Fund rather than himself, and hoped the publicity would bring in more vital funds
There are multiple patients scheduled to travel from East Timor to hospitals in Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong for heart surgeries over the next few months.