Lois Rogers

Journalist and Communicator

Man survives for two years without heart

Health

The Sunday Times 28 July 2013

A BRITISH man has set a record for survival without a human heart.

Matthew Green, 42, a married pharmaceutical consultant with a seven-year- old son, received a donor heart early last month having lived for two years with an external blood pump after the removal of his own fatally diseased organ.

The pioneering operation, carried out at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, had been his only hope of avoiding death from a deteriorating genetic condition. Green remains in hospital but doctors are hopeful he will be able to return home soon.

“I feel incredibly lucky that I have been given a third lease of life as a result of my heart transplant,” said Green. “It’s hard to put into words the gratitude I feel to my donor and their family. They have helped me to turn my life around again.”

Green was hours from death when both main chambers of his heart failed in July 2011 as a result of an unusual form of the condition cardiomyopathy that causes the electrical impulses controlling the heart to go out of rhythm.

He agreed to an experimental procedure at Papworth to remove the diseased organ altogether, and instead connect his blood vessels to an external pump. He had been advised to prepare his wife, Gill, and his son, Dylan, for the worst because doctors were not sure they could save him.

In fact, Green left hospital in a blaze of triumphant publicity, saying: “I am really excited about going home and being able to do the everyday things . . . playing in the garden with my son and cooking a meal for my family.”

After the procedure his heart function was taken over by a large pump on a trolley. A rechargeable 13Ålb battery powered pump in a backpack allowed him to leave the house for up to three hours at a time.

Its maker warns against relying on it for longer than two years because of a risk that it may cause fatal blood clots.

At 6ft 3in Green needed a sufficiently powerful heart from a similar-sized donor. He was just within this two-year cutoff when a suitable organ became available last month.

Steven Tsui, clinical director of transplant services at Papworth, said: “I am delighted that we were able to find a suitable donor heart for Matthew to have a heart transplant and I expect him to go home very soon.”

There are 214 people waiting for new hearts in Britain, 15 of them children. Many more are not put on the waiting list because the chances of a transplant are so slim.

Green said: “I want to thank all the amazing staff at Papworth Hospital who have cared for me and I want to urge anyone who is thinking of registering on the NHS organ donor register to do it.”

Written by Lois Rogers