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Five people saved by record-breaking 36 hours of transplant operations reunite

Transplant patients Luke Palfreyman, Yvonne Dunham, Nurse Sandie Von Joel, Michelle Hemmings, Jo Hext and Daniel Peel. Credit: PA

Five people who underwent lifesaving transplant operations within a record-breaking 36 hours at one NHS hospital have reunited to urge others to join the Organ Donor Register.

The two men and three women, aged between 23 and 67, received between them two hearts, two sets of lungs and one single lung.

More than 40 staff, including five surgeons, were involved, with several coming in on their days off at the Royal Papworth Hospital near Cambridge.

The operations took place in February and the patients have met up at the hospital six months later.

Luke Palfreyman, 23, who received a double lung transplant. Credit: PA

The five 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.

Yvonne Dunham, a 67-year-old from Suffolk, and Joanne Hext, 54, of Hampshire, both had heart transplants.

Michelle Hemmings, 46, of Birmingham, who had a single lung transplant.

Five people who underwent lifesaving transplant operations within a record-breaking time. Credit: PA

Dan said he is back at work as an engineer and has just completed a charity climb of Mount Snowdon in Wales.

He required a double lung transplant after being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which he described as lung arteries being "squeezed", placing strain on the heart.

He said he was told he "might have passed away within the year" without surgery.

He added that since his surgery “life has changed completely”.

"I’m back to full health now, I’m fit again, I can run, I can swim, I can play sport, last weekend I climbed Mount Snowdon which for me is an incredible journey six months post-transplant," he said.

Dan Peel said his life has changed completely since the transplant. Credit: PA

He described the hospital staff as "brilliant" and urged people to join the Organ Donor Register, adding: "If we can get just a couple more people signed up donating their organs and have that conversation with their families then that’s a couple more lives saved."

Yvonne was diagnosed in 1989 with an inherited heart disease which had claimed the life of her brother Kevin in 1992 when he was 37-years-old.

She had a heart transplant and she 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.

Yvonne Dunham from Suffolk who underwent a heart transplant operation. Credit: PA

"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," Dunham added.

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

Michelle Hemmings, 46, from Birmingham, with her surgeon Marius Berman, six months after he performed major transplant surgery on her. Credit: PA

"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 five operations were among 102 heart and lung transplants in the 2017-18 financial year, which was another hospital record.

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