Surgeons and patients united in an intimate service at Manchester Cathedral to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of Wythenshawe Hospital’s transplant unit on Sunday.
Families of donor patients remembered their loved ones and what they gave up, while recipients came with thanks for their own survival and the gift of life they received.
Professor Nizar Yonan, Director of Transplantation for Wythenshawe Hospital spoke at the service, describing the revolutionary work the unit has achieved in 25 years.
“I know we can’t help everyone, but if we can give hope to people, that’s all that matters,” he said.
“We are here to celebrate 900 transplants; 500 hearts and almost 400 lungs.”
Some readings included a poem by Kerry Edwards-Jenkins, a heart recipient, and prayers by William Noble, a trustee and heart recipient, giving thanks for their new life.
Afterwards everyone gathered across the road at Chetham’s School of Music for drinks and a chance to talk about their experiences.
PROUD MOMENT: Families of donors, recipients and surgeons join together
Tony Monks, 68 had a double lung transplant in 1993 after catching pneumonia ten years before. His health deteriorated from then on resulting in his heart failing.
He became dependent on an oxygen machine in the years leading up to his operation, and said that the transplant had completely transformed his life.
He said: “Something I’ve always wanted to do is play cricket. I played for the first time five months after the operation. I thought… I’m actually doing this, can you imagine how that felt for me?”
Mr Monks has had no further problems with his lungs however is now unfortunately suffering from kidney failure and is on dialysis, awaiting a transplant.
He stated: “I’d do anything to help the transplant unit. They’re excellent.”
One of many heart recipients at the service was Andrew Fleming, 39. He had an emergency transplant in September 1994, after only finding out about his disease a few months before.
Mr Fleming had an assessment arranged for later that year but needed a transplant before he made it there.
“The last time I closed my eyes, it thought that was it,” he said.
“It was just like going to sleep except I can’t remember the dream."
Mr Fleming’s family spoke of their own feelings at the time. His Mother, Pat Fleming said: “In one sense it was better for the family to go through it last minute, with no warning.
“The hospital was excellent, I stayed there for six weeks while he recovered.”
Mr Fleming is now completing a Masters in Law at Liverpool University.
COMING TOGETHER: Kerry Jenkins (heart), Jane Parsonage (lung), Moira Tollitt (heart and lungs), Hiliary Hughes (double lung), and Sheelagh Lamb (heart), all transplant recipients
The hospital unit is largely funded by the charity New Start, which provides what the government can’t, through research, equipment and supporting the unit itself.
Janice Taylor, the charity manager and organiser of the event said: “We did the first 50 transplants before funding even came in.
She continued: “It’s very important for everyone here to realise what donor families did for them.
“It has gone very well, everyone was very happy with the service.”
Moira Tollitt, 52 is a triple transplant patient, having received two new lungs and a new heart in her operation 20 years ago.
“Words aren’t enough to thank the hospital and of course the donor and their family for all they have done,” she said.
“Without them I wouldn’t be here.”
Many people at the event expressed their thanks to Wythenshawe Hospital for the support they and their families received.
The charity New Start continues to support the unit and its success will continue to grow.
Professor Yonan believes the future of transplantation is in mechanics, and the unit will accommodate that future to the best of its ability.
Photography courtesy of Jill Jennings, with thanks.