A memorial fund for former Sunshine Beach resident John Friendship will now allow researchers to take a closer look into the causes of complex lung disease.
Sunshine Coast Respiratory Specialist Dr Timothy Baird was approved to undertake an innovative $20,000 Wishlist/SERTF-funded research project in 2019 investigating the bacteria and fungi present in the airways of patients with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Now, thanks to a generous $5000 donation from John’s family and friends, Dr Baird will be able to extend his research to patients suffering from emphysema – a lung condition that causes shortness of breath and is a major leading cause of death in Australia.
Mr Friendship, a non-smoker and avid cyclist who was supremely fit, was diagnosed with emphysema in 2017.The diagnosis came as a shock and to this day the cause of his condition remains a mystery.
Despite the best medical care, John could not beat the disease and suffered a rapid decline. It was important to the family that donations in John’s memory go towards helping other sufferers of lung disease, specifically emphysema.
Dr Baird, who treated Mr Friendship at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, hoped his research would find what causes ‘flare ups’ in the lungs of emphysema patients.
“This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the University of the Sunshine Coast and uses genomic sequencing (complex testing of the DNA and RNA of bacteria, viruses and fungi) to determine what drives the decline in emphysema patients,” Dr Baird said.
“We hope to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of emphysema using these new sequencing techniques, and to one day have the ability to treat patients more rapidly and appropriately at the bedside.
“Thanks to this donation via Wishlist, it will allow our team to sequence about 20 further patients with emphysema over a period of six months. It will also allow us to use this extra data to apply for larger grants to continue and improve on our pioneering work.”
Dr Baird said the study involved collecting samples from emphysema patients when they were well and again when they were unwell to work out which microbes contribute to disease progression vs stability.
Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said every dollar donated in loving memory of John has been directed to the research project.
“Through these grants and others we are working with the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service Study, Education, Research Trust Fund (SERTF) to grow the capacity for more innovative, successful research projects aimed at improving patient safety and wellbeing across our local hospitals and beyond,” she said.