LIFESTYLE

Pioneering Heart Transplant Man Urges People To Join Organ Donor List

04/09/2017 08:48 BST | Updated 04/09/2017 08:50 BST

A man whose life was saved by a pioneering heart transplant two years ago is urging people to join the organ donor list.

Tom Shing, 25, was the seventh person in the world to receive a non-beating heart at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire in April 2015.

The agricultural engineer, from Hertfordshire, said there is a shortage of donors because not enough people are signing up.

Tom Shing (Family handout/PA)
Tom Shing is urging people to join the organ donor list (Family handout/PA)

He is encouraging people to join the NHS donor register for Organ Donation Week, September 4-10.

“The question is, would you be willing to take a donor organ for yourself, your husband, wife, son or daughter?” he said.

“If yes, then you should be willing to sign up and put yourself on the organ donor register.”

Mr Shing was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, which left him fighting for his life and in desperate need of a new heart by his late teens.

He struggled to find a suitable donor and had spent two years on a waiting list.

Mr Shing said: “When I was first on the list, I was coping but I was struggling. Nearer the end it got really bad. If I walked up the stairs to go to the toilet I’d have to take a five-minute break at the top before I came back down.”

Less than seven hours after surgery the extreme sports lover was doing exercises with a physiotherapist and was wakeboarding 10 weeks later.

Tom Shing (Family handout/PA)
Mr Shing was wakeboarding 10 weeks after the surgery (Family handout/PA)

Papworth was the first hospital in Europe to successfully transplant a non-beating heart, with Huseyin Ulucan, from London, the first to undergo the procedure in March 2015.

Up until then surgeons were only able to transplant beating hearts from donors following the diagnosis of brain death (DBD).

Using hearts from circulatory determined dead donors (DCD) has increased the heart transplant rate by more than a third at the hospital.

Cardiothoracic transplant registrar Simon Messer, who helped pioneer the procedure, said: “DCD heart transplantation is an amazing development that has saved the lives of dozens of patients dying of end stage heart failure.

“However, we need more people to sign up to the organ donor register as currently due to severe donor organ shortage, 43% of patients on the elective heart transplant waiting list will either die or deteriorate to the extent that they are permanently removed from the waiting list.”

A DCD heart transplant costs around £25,000 more than a DBD procedure, and currently has to be paid for through fundraising in the UK.