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16 December 2016

Papworth celebrates 30th Anniversary of the first Heart-Lung-Liver Transplant

On Saturday 17 December, Papworth Hospital celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first heart-lung-liver transplant, a pioneering procedure led by Professor John Wallwork.

The transplant surgery was performed on Davina Thompson, a seriously ill 35-year old mother from Yorkshire. She lived for nearly 12 years after the operation, making it a huge success.

Professor John Wallwork, Chairman of Papworth Hospital said: "Davina had a strange condition in that she had high blood pressure in her lungs, and this for idiosyncratic reasons, affected her liver. So she had liver failure and lung failure. […] She was very ill and probably wouldn’t have lived many months."

"You know that risks are going to be involved, the patients know that too. Patients are very brave people and for us, we knew the surgery was a success when the patient got to go home."

Andrew Armour, a former Papworth heart-lung-liver transplant patient, added: "I was told I had fifty-percent chance of having a year if I didn’t have a transplant. I was lucky enough to meet somebody who had already had a heart-lung transplant, and they were very well after ten years. That was extremely important for me to decide because I thought if there is even a chance of a quality of life like that, then of course I’d want it."

Professor John Wallwork and Davina Thompson in 1986
This remarkable procedure joins a history of other 'firsts' at Papworth Hospital. This includes the UK's first successful heart transplant in 1979, first beating heart transplant in 2006, and first patient to receive a total artificial heart implant and go home in 2011. Most recently, Europe's first successful heart transplant using a non-beating heart (DCD) in 2015.

As Cambridgeshire also feels a sense of pride in these achievements, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and BBC Look East have visited our hospital over the last few days. Capturing an interview with both the Chairman and Sir Roy Calne, they delved into the experience of preparing for a surgery that had never been done before. 

Still a rare operation, with only 10 operations since 1986, they explore how modern medicine has developed over the last 30 years, and how this has specifically excelled at Papworth Hospital.

BBC Look East will be broadcasting the story live tonight (Friday 16 December) at 6pm. You can also catch up on Dotty McLeod’s Breakfast Show coverage online at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.



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