AFTER two years away, long-serving Bathurst City and RSL Concert Band’s conductor Mathias Rogala-Koczorowski is back in town.
The beloved conductor had to retire from the band in 2015 to move closer to Sydney, where he would later undergo a heart transplant.
He spent more than two years on the waiting list, but in June finally got to have his life-saving operation.
The phone call came in at 8am one morning, instructing him to get to hospital immediately as a heart had become available for him.
Later that evening, he underwent a five-hour surgery and woke from the ordeal four days later.
There have been some complications, including a severe infection of the breastbone and problems with that healing after surgery, but ultimately he is doing much better.
“The heart itself is fantastic; it has been performing impeccably,” Mr Rogala-Koczorowski said.
“When other side effects of drugs or complications aren’t interfering, I feel tremendously fit and like I’ve got a new lease on life and I am young again.”
He said it can take years for a patient to recover from a transplant, but it was worth all the operations and medication.
“There is every chance I’ll live for many years and have fantastic quality of life,” he said.
After he left Bathurst, a plaque bearing his name and contribution was placed on a bench by Lewins Gate in Machattie Park.
Mr Rogala-Koczorowski felt honoured by the plaque, particularly with the bench being beside a tribute to his predecessor, Sam Lewins.
“When I found out that [the band] went to the council to have this plaque put on the bench that they’ve got dedicated to me, I particularly wanted to come back and sit on that and appreciate that, because I think it is a really great honour,” he said.
Mr Rogala-Koczorowski will only be in Bathurst for a short time as he needs to be back at hospital early next week.
He said it was great to come back and see that the band was still going strong after he had to step away.
“I’m really glad to learn that the band it still thriving and continuing to fulfill its civic role and perform the very important responsibilities for the RSL in commemorating the sacrifice of service people and it is in very good hands with my successor, Wendy Jenkins,” Mr Rogala-Koczorowski.
After his experience, he has also encouraged people to consider signing up to be an organ donor.