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NHS perform new pioneering heart transplant technique

Posted on February 2021 By Jamie Southwell

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​Anna Hadley, 16, pictured above

Six teenagers received a lifesaving heart transplant through the NHS involving a never before used technique of replacing the paediatric patient’s heart with a “dead” donor heart.

Through a collaborative effort between Great Ormond Street Hospital and Royal Papworth Hospital, the children aged 12 to 16 were able to survive the operation carried out during the coronavirus pandemic last year.

The technology known as donation after circulatory death, had previously been used on just adults, but in a groundbreaking success is now considered suitable for minors. Achieved through using a machine to reanimate the heart outside of the body belonging to those declared dead, allowing for longer means of transportation and transplantation.

​Anna Hadley, holding a hockey stick, pictured above

First child to receive the surgery was 16-year-old Anna Hadley, from Worcester, who says she now “feels normal again” and there is “nothing” preventing her from returning to play hockey which had previously been one of her favourite sports. Anna was kept on the transplant waiting list for almost two years before being able to receive her new organ.

On average the waiting period in the UK for adults who require a new heart is close to three years. With the introduction of the pioneered method, the number of children eligible has now increased by 50%.

​Freya Heddington, 14, pictured above

Freya Heddington, was the second teenager to go through the operation, aged 14 from Bristol, claiming she has “more stamina” than before allowing her to go for long walks and climbs without the “need to stop for breathers”.

Continuing on she says “'I am ecstatic that I got such an amazing gift, but it's upsetting to know that someone also died.”

​Dr. John Forsythe, pictured above

The success of the operation has opened up opportunities at saving the lives of paediatric patients with heart problems around the world according to Dr. John Forsythe, the Medical Director for organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant.

He says “this new technique will save lives both here and around the world. It means people can donate their hearts where it wouldn't have been possible in the past, giving life to patients on the waiting list.”

With such beneficial results, it will be good to see other countries following the direction NHS and applying the newfound heart transplant technique to save children's lives in the near future.