A WREXHAM father who was told he could die by Christmas has become the first person in the UK to receive the lungs of a dead person in a pioneering life-saving operation.
The lungs of the deceased donor were made to breathe outside the body before being transplanted into 55-year-old Ken Collins of Chirk in a 14-hour operation at the University Hospital of South Manchester. It is the first time the operation has been performed outside Sweden.
“It’s the best Christmas present I could ever have,” said his wife, Maggie Collins, at their home in Charles Street.
Mr Collins said from his hospital bed: “I feel absolutely fantastic compared to the way I felt before. I feel 10-15 years younger. It is an absolute godsend.
“The chances for me were very slim, if I had lived until Christmas, I would have been lucky.
“Now the doctors have given me five years if it is not rejected and some people live on another 10-15 years.”
Five years ago, the couple lost their eight-year-old daughter Lucy to meningitis and three weeks before that Mrs Collin’s mum, 68-year-old Edith Gill passed away.
“The last 18 months Ken got really quite poorly, and he was told he would not survive until Christmas. The thought of losing my daughter, my mother and my husband, all within five years, was unbearable,” said Mrs Collins.
Her two sons, Lee, 28, and Adam, 25, former soldiers with the Territorial Army’s Welch Fusiliers who saw service in Iraq, have been by her side. “They have both been strong for me, I’m so proud of them both.”
Despite being healthy most of his life and never off work, Mr Collins, who retired in June from his job as chief colourist for Silvergate Plastics, Wrexham Industrial Estate, when he was diagnosed with emphysema.
After 11 weeks on a transplant list, Mr Collins agreed to sign up for a medical trial.
“My wife and myself knew there wasn’t long. We heard about the possibility of this clinical trial and thought I had nothing to lose,” he said.
“I don’t know who the donor was, but when I find out I would like to send a card and flowers to the hospital so my thanks can be sent on to the family. If there is anybody out there who is thinking of donating, please do.”
Eight weeks ago, the hospital’s transplant team removed lungs from a dead donor and used a machine to pump them with blood and oxygen to keep them healthy for a longer period than they would normally survive outside the body.
The lungs were then monitored and judged to be of a high enough quality to use safely in a transplant.
Nizar Yonan, director of transplant at the hospital, said: “Mr Collins is making excellent progress and is an example of how this procedure benefits patients who may otherwise have died waiting for a transplant due to the national shortage of lungs.
“We have about 30 patients who have consented to be transplanted using ex-vivo organs and I am confident many lives will be saved using this technique.”