Pauli O’Halloran is just the 96th person in New Zealand to have received a lung transplant. Of those 96, only 37 are still alive. His gruelling and heart-wrenching battle is caught on camera by his film-maker wife in the deeply intimate documentary Inside New Zealand: Life, Death and a Lung Transplant, screening on Thursday, July 3rd at 9:30pm on TV3.
At 44 years old, Pauli’s lifelong battle with Cystic Fibrosis made him one of New Zealand’s oldest survivors of CF, living well past the average life expectancy of 31 for a male. In the lead up to his operation, every day was a constant struggle to breathe, and the older he got, the sicker he became. His only hope of survival lay in new lungs.
For those needing an organ transplant, the struggle is a tricky one. Recipients need to get sick enough so that they qualify to get on the active waiting list, while remaining healthy enough to be able to survive the operation.
And a lung transplant especially is not an easy operation. Only around 15 are performed each year, and they come with a long, painful and mentally and physically tough recovery. Although survival chances start at 85% at one month, they quickly plummet to 70% at one year, and 50% at three years.
“You wouldn’t do it if you had a choice,” says Pauli. “You’d only choose a lung transplant if your other choice was death. Lucky old me. What a choice.”
Inside New Zealand: Life, Death and a Lung Transplant follows Pauli’s battle through the story told by his wife Rachel Jean of Isola Productions. With unlimited, 24-hour access to our subject, this piece documents Pauli’s five-year struggle to get on the waiting list, hope for new lungs, and face the very real possibility of leaving behind a wife and two young children who will not be able to remember their father.
“If it was just me on my own, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But life is more complicated than that. I’m basically doing it for Rachel and Frankie and Violet. I just don’t want to leave them. I want to see the kids grow up… and they need a dad.”
Tune in for the rollercoaster of emotions that is Inside New Zealand: Life, Death and a Lung Transplant, screening Thursday, July 3rd at 9:30pm on TV3.