Hospital carries out three organ transplants in just 17 hours
Medics performed three life-saving transplant operations within 17 hours at a single hospital in a ‘rare achievement’.
Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, the UK’s leading heart and lung hospital, kept its transplant unit open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – even while some staff were redeployed to help on coronavirus wards.
The donor organs, which arrived from three different hospitals, took more than 20 staff to retrieve and transplant the organs.
Despite reduced staff numbers and coronavirus restrictions, staff managed to perform 56 transplant operations throughout 2019 to 2020, comprising 39 heart transplants and 17 lung transplants. This is about two thirds of regular capacity.
One of the three transplant patients, 50-year-old Barry Edgson, said he has been ‘given a second chance at life’.
‘My condition got so bad I was on oxygen all the time, I could hardly walk,’ he said.
‘I have a five-year-old son and I’ve never been able to take him to school.’
‘Going into that operation was like being at the top of a rollercoaster getting ready to go.
‘My dad died at the end of the last year and I remember thinking, “I’m not ready to meet you yet.”
‘I put my all my trust in the team at Royal Papworth and I knew they’d look after me.
‘It still feels surreal that I’ve had the transplant.’
Barry, from Southend in Essex, had a double lung transplant after suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that causes breathing difficulties, for around eight years.
‘I was so used to relying on oxygen it feels strange to be able to breathe and walk along the corridor without it,’ he added.
‘But I’ve been given a second chance a life thanks to my donor and the team at Royal Papworth and I’m very, very grateful for that.’
It is the most transplants to have taken place in such a short space of time at Royal Papworth Hospital since 2018, when five patients received either a heart or lung transplant within 36 hours of each other.
Umar Rafiq, one of the consultant transplant surgeons involved in the three operations within 17 hours, said the achievement comes as Covid-19 cases decrease.
‘People who die from Covid-19 are unable to donate their organs, so with the reduction in Covid-19 patients in critical care and staff coming back from redeployment, we’re now seeing an increase in organ donation offers and transplant activity,’ he said.
‘To do three transplants within 17 hours is a rare achievement and to do 11 transplants in a month is unusual.
‘That’s more than 10% of our normal annual total during April alone and is a reflection of the dedication shown by all the staff, especially after such an intense year, to continue to provide outstanding care to our transplant patients.
‘It’s really positive to see this upturn in activity and we hope that, alongside the new opt-out system that was introduced in May 2020, this provides optimism for everyone else on transplant waiting lists.’