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How an organ donor saved my life

PUBLISHED: 00:01 04 September 2018 | UPDATED: 06:44 04 September 2018

Yvonne Dunham, 67, from Suffolk in the grounds of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, six months after having major transplant surgery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Yvonne Dunham, 67, from Suffolk in the grounds of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, six months after having major transplant surgery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

PA Wire

A woman who was one of five people whose life was saved in a record-breaking 36 hours of transplant operations at a single hospital has urged others to join the Organ Donor Register.

Luke Palfreyman, Yvonne Dunham, Michelle Hemmings, Jo Hext and Daniel Peel meet up in the grounds of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, six months after they all had major transplant surgery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA WireLuke Palfreyman, Yvonne Dunham, Michelle Hemmings, Jo Hext and Daniel Peel meet up in the grounds of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, six months after they all had major transplant surgery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Yvonne Dunham, from Fressingfield near Diss, was one of what she described as the “famous five” who between them received two hearts, two sets of lungs and one single lung in a mammoth day and a half of surgery at the Royal Papworth Hospital, near Cambridge.

The 67-year-old received a new heart after being diagnosed in 1989 with an inherited heart disease, which had claimed the life of her brother Kevin in 1992, aged 37.

However she is one of the lucky ones - 18 people from Suffolk have died in the past five years while waiting for an organ transplant, according to new figures.

NHS Blood and Transplant is now urging more people in Suffolk to tell their families they want to save lives through organ donation.

As part of Organ Donation Week, which runs until September 9, families in the county are being urged to talk about the issue.

Meeting up with the four other patients to benefit from the surgery, which took place in February, Ms Dunham said she has written a letter to her donor’s family - an anonymous process through the hospital with an option for contact at a later stage if both parties are willing.

“You just have to be thankful there are people who are willing to donate and families who are willing to agree to it because without them none of us would be having a future that we now have,” Ms Dunham said.

Transplant co-ordinator Sadie Von Joel - who worked a 27-hour shift as part of the effort which included 40 staff, including five surgeons - said it was a hospital record to complete so many transplant operations within such a short window of time.

“It was a real one-off,” she said, adding it was “unusual” to have so many offers of organs in that period of time and for them to match the recipients.

The other patients whose lives were saved are 23-year-old Luke Palfreyman, of Barnsley and Dan Peel, 26, of Reading, who both received double lung transplants, Joanne Hext, 54, of Horndean, Hampshire, had a heart transplant, while 46-year-old Michelle Hemmings, of Birmingham, had a single lung transplant.

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, call 0300 123 23 23, or see www.organdonation.nhs.uk or www.organdonationscotland.org to register online.

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