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10 April 2018

Surrey mum of two becomes record 100th patient to receive a transplant at Royal Papworth Hospital in one year

A woman from Surrey has become the 100th patient to receive a heart or lung transplant at Royal Papworth Hospital in one year.
The hospital has carried out a record 102 heart and lung transplants in the past 12 months. The total breaks a record of 95 transplants performed in 1997-98 and comes just weeks after the hospital’s transplant team carried out a record five organ transplants in the space of 36 hours.

Pulmonary fibrosis patient Saffren Edmiston, 43, whose father, uncle and grandfather all died from the condition – which sees lung tissue become thickened and makes breathing almost impossible -  had spent two years on the transplant waiting list for a new pair of lungs.

She received the call from Lead Nurse for Transplantation, Richard Quigley, to say a suitable donor had been identified, in the last week of March, as she drove to an outdoor adventure park with her children Callum, 16, and Tegan, 14.

“Richard asked me ‘Are you driving?’, and I said ‘Yes, I’m on a hands-free phone. Should I turn around?’ He said: ‘Yes, you’ll probably want to…’”
Although Saffren knew there was a risk she would develop pulmonary fibrosis, she says the deterioration of her lungs happened very slowly. She was eventually diagnosed with the illness in 2009, but she didn’t go into the details of the condition with her children until she went on the transplant waiting list in 2016.

“In the early days, I didn’t even tell them the name of my condition, because I knew they might ‘Google’ it – and it’s a dim prognosis. After I went on the transplant list I knew there was a chance that they might come back from school one day and I wouldn’t be there because I’d had the call. They asked a lot of questions and handled it in different ways.”

Saffren, who had to reduce her working hours as a school finance officer, and often didn’t have the energy to make her colleagues a cup of tea, said living with pulmonary fibrosis meant making compromises on a daily basis. “It impacted on my role as a mum, because there were times when I couldn’t do something as simple as taking my daughter ice skating. My lungs were basically half the size they should be, because of the scarring.

“The thought of what I might be able to achieve now, because of my transplant, is mind blowing. I feel like I’ve been given an amazing opportunity, and longer with my children. My heart goes out to the family of the donor – but, really, they, the donor and the wonderful staff at Royal Papworth Hospital have given me a miracle.”

Mr Pedro Catarino, Clinical Director of Transplantation, said: “We are incredibly proud that we have been able to give more than 100 people the chance of a life-saving heart or lung transplant this year.

“I would like to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of the team here at Royal Papworth Hospital – which includes surgeons, nurses, transplant coordinators, admin staff and many other professionals – who work so hard to provide a world-class transplant service.”  

Lead Nurse for Transplantation Richard Quigley said: “We are hugely grateful to the donors and their families who so bravely chose to give others a second chance at life. Thanks also to the teams of health care professionals - including the retrieval team, the teams of doctors and nurses at the donor hospital and of course our amazing staff back here at Royal Papworth. 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. This donor was on the Organ Donor Register and as a result two children have their mum back.”