A Fen man has described the fantastic life-saving treatment received at the Royal Papworth Hospital and urges everyone to not only support its pioneering work but to also join the organ donor register.
Mike Hawes, 58, is convinced that without a life-saving heart transplant in November he would not be here today. Now Mike who is from Manea wants to raise the issue of organ donation and also the need for fundraising to help save the lives of others.
The father of two admits he was one of the lucky ones, he was only waiting around six weeks for a new heart and he was able to take advantage of a pioneering new procedure.
He was the 37th person to receive what is known as a DCD heart - Donation After Circulatory Determined Death - at the Royal Papworth on November 17.
DCD is a revolutionary procedure which doctors believe could slash waiting lists for heart transplants by nearly half in the next few years. The Royal Papworth is one of only three hospitals in the UK where the procedure is currently carried out.
The procedure sees non-beating hearts from dead patients successfully transplanted into people like Mike - and it could help solve the problem of the deadly shortfall in organ donations.
At the moment a gap between the supply and demand for new hearts means lengthy waiting times for patients. While waiting around 43 per cent of patients either die or deteriorate to such an extent they are permanently removed from the list.
Before the operation was introduced in the UK in 2015, surgeons could only transplant beating hearts following the diagnosis of “brain death” (DBD), when the donor’s brain is no longer working but the heart is still be beating.
The new procedure sees the non-beating heart restarted using a rig which is basically a portable heart by-pass machine as it is taken from the donor to the recipient.
But Mike, who is due to marry fiancee Wendy Keaney in May, explained the NHS currently only pays for the surgery, it does not pay for the rig, which costs around £32,000 and can only be used once, which is why the couple are planning to hold fundraising events later in the year.
Mike’s surgeon Simon Messer, part of the pioneering team led by Stephen Large at Papworth, told the couple the procedure is “phenomenal” and will have a tremendous impact on waiting times.
But the couple are also highly aware of the need for more donors to come forward and are backing government proposals that would see an opt-out donor register introduced in England like that in Wales.
“I think having an opt-out scheme where people have to choose not to be on the register is a much better system than the current opt-in, which relies on people signing up,” said Mike.
“The problem is people don’t always think about being on the donor register until something like what I’ve been through happens to them. It is simple to sign up, but it is also easy to put off doing it. Having an opt-out scheme will mean everyone will be considered a donor unless they have specifically chosen not to be - that will help the shortage of donors, not just of hearts but other organs too,” said Mike, who was diagnosed with a genetic heart problem in 2015.
He and Wendy have written a letter via the hospital to thank the family of the donor.
“I can’t thank them enough for allowing their loved one to be a donor. I shall be forever grateful to them for their bravery without them I don’t think I would be here today,” he said.