Papworth Hospital patients whose lives were saved in record-breaking 36 hours of transplants urge others to sign donor register

05 September, 2018 - 09:00
The five Papworth Hospital patients who were reunited with the surgeons who saved their lives in a record-breaking 36 hours of transplants. Picture: SUBMITTED

The five Papworth Hospital patients who were reunited with the surgeons who saved their lives in a record-breaking 36 hours of transplants. Picture: SUBMITTED


Five patients who received new organs in a record-breaking 36 hours of transplant activity at Royal Papworth Hospital were reunited with the surgeons and staff whose efforts gave them a second chance at life.

The patients, from around the UK, were back together at the Cambridgeshire hospital for Organ Donation Week 2018 (February 3 to 9), to urge others to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register and help save the lives of more people like them.

Yvonne Dunham, 67, from Suffolk; Michelle Hemmings, 46, from Birmingham; Jo Hext, 54, from Hampshire; Luke Palfreyman, 23, from South Yorkshire, and Daniel Peel, 26, from Reading, all underwent transplant surgery at Royal Papworth over a single weekend in February. They were back together there on Thursday August 30, six months later.

More than 40 staff were involved at the time, including five surgeons who transplanted two hearts, two double lungs and one single lung.

At one point three theatres were running transplant surgery at the same time. The operations were among 102 heart and lung transplants in the 2017 to 18 financial year - another hospital record.

In 1989, grandmother-of-three Yvonne was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a condition which causes the heart’s muscles to thicken, and which claimed the life of her brother Kevin at the age of 37.

After years of treatment she was told by Royal Papworth doctors at the end of 2016 that without a heart transplant she would only survive for a maximum of two more years.

“By now I would be looking at having just six months left,” said Yvonne. “So the transplant has giving me a life I didn’t know I would have. I’ll be forever grateful to my donor and their family.”

Daniel, who has already returned to work as an environmental engineer in Reading, received a double lung transplant after being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension - high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs - in 2012.

A week ago (August 26) he climbed Mount Snowdon to raise funds for the Papworth Hospital Charity.

“Less than a year ago I couldn’t even climb the stairs, so the difference is incredible,” he said. “I want to help as many others as possible get to the same point I’m at.”

Mr Pedro Catarino, clinical director of transplantation at the hospital, performed two of the transplants. He said he had never known the hospital to be so busy, adding that some staff came in to help on their day off.

He said: “It was a remarkable effort by everyone involved; everyone pulled together amazingly. All five of the patients – from all over the country - are doing very well and go to show what a difference these transplants can make to someone’s life.

“I’d urge anyone who has not yet signed the NHS Organ Donor Register to consider it today, and most importantly tell their family about their wishes.”

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, phone 0300 123 23 23, or go to / to register online.


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