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27 July 2017

Papworth patient celebrates 30th anniversary of heart-lung transplant

A woman from Berkshire will today celebrate the 30th anniversary of her heart-lung transplant at Papworth Hospital by reuniting with the surgeon who performed her life-saving surgery.
Carol Town, 63, who now lives in York, will be joined by Professor John Wallwork, now Chairman at Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, at a celebratory reception at Pembroke College in Cambridge this afternoon.
Born in Upminster, Essex, in 1954, Carol was diagnosed with a rare syndrome called Eisenmenger's Syndrome at the age of five. At the time, there was nothing that could be done to treat the disease, which leads to irreversible lung damage, and most patients died before the age of 30.
Carol spent her childhood in and out of hospital, suffering with extreme breathlessness, heart failure and later asthma. Her health continued to deteriorate and she was told that her only hope for survival would be the development of a technique for heart-lung transplantation.
In 1985, Carol was referred from St Bartholomew's Hospital in London to Papworth and attended an assessment for a potential heart-lung transplant. She was accepted onto the waiting list in January 1986 and waited for 18 months for an organ to become available, during which time she was not able to travel further than two hours from Papworth.
In July 1987, Carol was on the way home from work when she got a message from Papworth to say that suitable organs had been identified for her transplant.
She remembers: "I had been asked to carry a 'bleep' around with me as this was in the days before everyone had mobile phones. When the bleep sounded I had to rush to a Little Chef and queue for the payphone to get the message to come to Papworth.
"After years of hospital treatment I felt pragmatic about the surgery. It was my only option for survival so I had to take it. At the time, Professor Wallwork told me he expected me to live for four years after the surgery, and for me then, four years felt like a long time."
Carol's surgery was a success and she was discharged in time for her fourth wedding anniversary on 27th August 1987. The treatment gave her a new lease of life and she quickly learned to run, swim, cycle and ride horses for the first time. In December that year she climbed her first peak, Pen-y-Gent, and she later competed in the Transplant Games.
Despite further episodes of ill health, Carol went on to have a son, Joss, through a surrogate. She also built a career in counselling, initially as a hearing therapist and later as a therapist for relationship counselling organisation Relate.  
Now retired, Carol is able to live life to the full and still walks and swims regularly.
She says: "The transplant gave me so much. It completely transformed my life and allowed me to do things I never thought possible, like see my son grow up and have a rewarding career. I’ll probably never know who it was who donated their heart and lungs to me but I am so grateful to them for giving me a second chance at life."
Professor John Wallwork, Chairman at Papworth Hospital Foundation Trust, said: "It is wonderful to see Carol celebrating the 30th anniversary of her heart-lung transplant at Papworth Hospital. Carol's operation took place just a few years after I performed the first successful heart-lung transplant in Europe, but since then we have carried out more than a thousand life-saving transplants here at Papworth. As a surgeon it is incredibly rewarding to see a former patient enjoy such a good quality of life 30 years after surgery and I wish Carol many healthy and happy years to come."
Carol hopes that her story will inspire more people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. In the UK, more than 7,000 people are waiting for a life-saving transplant and three die each day waiting. To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, please telephone 0300 123 23 23, or go to www.organdonationscotland.org / www.organdonation.nhs.uk to register online.
Papworth Hospital is the UK's leading heart and lung hospital treating more than 100,000 patients each year from across the UK. Next year, the hospital will move to a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.