World first as woman gets lung from living donors

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The Independent Online

Health Editor

A cystic fibrosis sufferer has scored a double first by becoming the first patient in Britain to undergo a lung transplant from a living donor - her father - and the first in the world to receive from a living donor - a family friend - who is unrelated to her.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust yesterday welcomed the pioneering surgery, saying it offered new hope to scores of sufferers whose chances of survival are limited by the shortage of lungs for transplant from dead donors. Up to 40 per cent of cystic fibrosis patients die on the waiting list.

Clare Wildman, 20, who needed oxygen 24 hours a day, can now breathe almost normally after receiving lung tissue from her father Graham, 43, and Jude Harris, 40, a close friend of her mother's. They each donated about a fifth of their lung tissue, comprising the lower left lobe of Mr Wildman's lung and the lower right of Mrs Harris's.

The six-hour operation, performed at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, the world famous transplant surgeon, took place July last. He agreed to carry it out only after approval from independent ethical committees at Harefield, and the Royal Brompton Hospital, and from the Department of Health.

The idea for the operation came from Ms Wildman's mother, Averil, who read about the success of similar ventures in America where about 20 such operations have been carried out. She intended to be a donor along with her husband, but her lung tissue was not a good match with her daughter's.

Other close family members were tested for compatibility with Ms Wildman, but were not considered suitable either. Her 16-year-old brother, Stephen, volunteered but the Wildmans thought he was too young.

Mrs Harris and her husband, from Hertfordshire, then offered themselves as donors as Ms Wildman's health deteriorated. Mrs Harris was the better match. "I didn't want Clare to die. I have two healthy daughters and I've known her mother for 30 years, since we were nine years old. It is like we are related." Ms Wildman is now planning to go to college.

Professor Yacoub said the operation was possible because everyone has spare lung capacity, and because donated lung tissue will expand to fill the cavity. He told the Daily Express: "As doctors we are trained to treat patients and it goes against the grain to operate on somebody who is normal ... But we cannot overrule members of the community if they want something so much, so long as they understand the implications ..."

Dr Martin Scott from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust said yesterday: "The ability to use living donors for some CF patients is a major surgical advance and should help reduce the dreadful odds against survival."

Live donors are routinely used in kidney and liver transplants.