Patient gets triple-organ transplant

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The Independent Online

Health Editor

A cancer patient has undergone a pioneering multi-organ transplant at a hospital in Leeds, believed to be the first of its kind in Europe.

Haldene Butler, 23, of Omagh, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, received a new liver, bowel, and pancreas, at St James's Hospital, in Leeds, just over a week ago.

Mr Butler, who had developed cancer in all three organs, is said to be making a "remarkable recovery" from the eight and a half-hour operation

Stephen Pollard, one of the surgeons who carried out the surgery, said last night: "The operation was less difficult than we anticipated and it went very well. There were no problems while we were in surgery and we're delighted that Mr Butler has adapted well to his new organs."

It is very unusual for a cancer patient to undergo a transplant because of fears that the disease will have already spread throughout the body and the patient will die anyway.

However, Mr Butler is suffering from a very rare tumour which had spread locally only into the liver, bowel, and stomach wall from a primary site in the pancreas. "We were confident that the disease had not spread any further, otherwise we would not have done it," Mr Pollard said. He has carried out liver transplants on other patients suffering from similar tumours and the five-year survival rate is about 70 per cent.

Mr Butler is expected to be up and walking within the next few days, and could be discharged from hospital in about a month. His father, Walter, mother, Lila, and his fiancee, Julie Feather, have been by his bedside throughout the ordeal.

His father said: "It was worrying from the point of view that they'd never done the operation before, but we had no option. When you've no choice, you just have to make the best of it."

Ms Feather added: "He'd waited so long to be cured. He just wanted to live a normal life. Before the operation the rest of us were running round panicking, but he was wonderful."

Mr Butler was referred to St James's from the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Within hours of an organ donor being found he was flying to Leeds for the operation.

The majority of multi-organ transplants in the UK are heart and lung of which up to 50 a year are carried out.

There has been just one more complicated multi-organ transplant in the UK in which a patient also received a kidney and stomach, along with liver, bowel, and pancreas.

American surgeons have pioneered the concept of multi-organ transplants, but have been beset with problems with rejection and infection which has hampered development of the programme. Laura Davies, who died aged five in 1993, is Britain's most famous multi- organ transplantee. She underwent two transplants in 15 months at the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital in Pennsylvania.