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23 March 2018

Cambridge Science Festival 2018: Surgeon and patient explain why 'transplant is a tremendous therapy'

Royal Papworth Hospital’s Mr Pedro Catarino talked a Cambridge Science Festival audience through transplant surgery last night (22 March) – with some help from a double lung transplant recipient.

The Clinical Director of Transplantation was speaking at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology, where he was joined by Cystic Fibrosis patient Libby Huck.

Mr Catarino explained how patients were identified for lung and heart transplants – and the part blood and tissue types play in the decision – and described how the number of transplants was on the rise, partly because of innovative therapies such as the DCD programme.

He told the audience: “Royal Papworth Hospital has a culture of looking to do things differently, there is a lot of research and patients directly benefit, because everyone is trying to do things better.

“Transplant is a tremendous therapy; there are not many treatments in any field which give you that sort of benefit.”

Libby, who is currently studying at Southampton University, said she had been travelling through Europe in 2016 when she fell ill.

“I basically went from walking around Venice to being on a ventilator in the space of 48 hours.  I caught a bacteria which colonised my lungs and turned into chest sepsis. I was put on the transplant waiting list, but I knew my chances of getting a donor were slim.

“Three months later I got the call – on Friday 13th – and within half an hour I was in the theatre. It’s a bitter-sweet moment, because it’s what you’ve waited for – but you know that someone else has died to get you to that place.”

A day after the surgery she said she took her deepest breath in 15 years, but needed to learn how to breathe again. Five weeks later she was able to play tennis with her family in their garden.

“It’s not an easy journey but you can’t compare the life I have now with the life I had then. I hope my story helps increase the discussion of organ donation in families – and encourages more people to sign the Organ Donation Register.”

On Sunday, 25 March, Royal Papworth Hospital will host another Cambridge Science Festival event - Connecting with life at Royal Papworth Hospital. The event - 1100-1500 at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology in Robinson Way, Cambridge - will include hands-on activities for families.
Click here for more information.