Horndean woman saved by transplant makes organ donation appeal 

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A Horndean woman who underwent a lifesaving transplant operation has united with four other people who underwent the same treatment in the space of a day and a half to urge others to join the Organ Donor Register.

Joanne Hext was one of five people who had an organ transplant within a record-breaking 36 hours at the same hospital. 

Jo Hext, 54, from Hampshire in the grounds of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, six months after having major transplant surgery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Jo Hext, 54, from Hampshire in the grounds of Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, six months after having major transplant surgery. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The 54-year-old had a heart transplant at the Royal Papworth Hospital near Cambridge in February. 

She was diagnosed with genetic cardiomyopathy - a condition which causes the heart's muscles to thicken - following a stroke five years ago.

She said her brother had always had a poorly heart but after her stroke doctors discovered it was due to a faulty gene in her family.

Read More: Liver transplant gives Lyn, from Hayling Island, new lease of life

(left to right) 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 Wire

(left to right) 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 Wire

‘I was keeping quite well, plodding on with the medication, then about a year ago now in August I was away on holiday with the children and grandchildren and I just began to feel really quite unwell,’ she explained. 

‘I went back to my local hospital the Queen Alexandra in Cosham and my cardiologist there said I think I need to refer you for a transplant.’ 

She went on the waiting list for a transplant in January and had a successful heart transplant six weeks later.

‘It's absolutely transformed my life,’ she said.

(left to right) Luke Palfreyman, Yvonne Dunham, Nurse Sandie Von Joel transplant co-ordinator, Michelle Hemmings, Jo Hext and Daniel Peel. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

(left to right) Luke Palfreyman, Yvonne Dunham, Nurse Sandie Von Joel transplant co-ordinator, Michelle Hemmings, Jo Hext and Daniel Peel. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

‘I can walk and talk when I couldn't do either before, I'm playing with my grandsons, football, and I'm looking forward to going back to work, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.’

She said she feels ‘so grateful’ to the donor's family, adding ‘you feel humbled they've been able to do that and transformed somebody's life, for something good to come out of something so tragic’.

She said the hospital staff had been ‘amazing’, and her brother who has the same genetic condition is now on the transplant waiting list too.

Read More: Meet the record breakers changing lives for the better in Portsmouth

Two men and two other women aged between 23 and 67, also received between them a heart, two sets of lungs and one single lung, over the course of 36 hours at Royal Papworth Hospital

A team of more than 40 staff, including five surgeons, were involved with several coming in on their days off. 

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.

‘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 or www.organdonationscotland.org to register online.