On 14th May, BBC2 showed a documentary titled “Heart Transplant: A Chance to Live”. The 90 minute programme followed transplant surgeons at Freeman Hospital and focussed on the ground-breaking technology known as Transmedics Organ Care Systems (OCS)
Freeman Hospital is one of Europe’s leading transplant centres and carries out lifesaving transplants for some of the sickest and most challenging patients on the organ waiting list. OCS keeps donor hearts beating for up to eight hours until they are transplanted and CHUF has provided funding for the specialist kit which is needed each time the Organ Care System is used.
You may hear OCS referred to as Transmedics. This is the name of the company that produce the heart console and specialist kit. The documentary also made reference to Ex-vivo perfusion. This is the experimental technique that rejuvenates organs in order to make them fit for transplantation
The system uses the heart donor’s blood to imitate the conditions of the human body. It pumps or perfuses the blood through the heart, with an internal gas supply providing the blood with oxygen, and so continues to function as it would in a living person.
The system also allows the retrieval team to check that the donor heart is suitable and healthy enough for transport and transplantation during its journey, saving vital time and helping to prevent unsuitable hearts being used.
These checks can also identify some hearts which might have previously been considered too risky for transplantation but can be made suitable while in the machine.
The system is used by specialist 24-hour heart retrieval teams who are notified when a heart becomes available and head out, by ambulance, helicopter or jet, to retrieve the donated organ.
Cardiothoracic and transplant surgeon Fabrizio de Rita (front right in image below) says: “It can take three to four hours just to prepare complex congenital heart patient for their surgery before we even think about starting the transplant itself, some of them requiring at the same time corrective surgery to accommodate a normal heart, so the time pressures are even more critical.
“The OCS takes this pressure away and has opened that all important window to at least eight hours. There is much evidence now that using this system improves outcomes for our sickest recipients on the waiting list.”
“We very much hope the new system will help us to transplant more patients and that because of the benefits of the OCS they will require less time on intensive care, and are less likely to experience post-transplant heart failure. This technology will also expand the heart donor pool, giving also us the possibility to retrieve donor’s heart with marginal function and improve them while on the machine, otherwise being unusable”.
“Our amazing supporters at CHUF have carried out years of fundraising, and we hope they will provide funding to enable our transplant experts to use the system more and more over the next year to evaluate this exciting new technology. We are immensely grateful to them.”
CHUF has been able to support the arrival of this innovative, ‘game-changing’ technology to Newcastle thanks to the outstanding fundraising efforts of two families united in daunting times, and their quest to make a difference.
Our Patron Graham Wylie has raised significant funds over many years through annual golf days and scores of other events. His daughter Kiera underwent life-saving surgery at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital when she was young. Graham has remained a huge supporter of CHUF ever since and funded the first ten sets of specialist kit which is needed each time the Organ Care System is used. CHUF was delighted to see Graham recognised for his contributions to charitable causes at the 2018 Pride of North East Awards (below)
Sergio and Emma Petrucci’s daughter Luna also required major heart surgery at the Freeman Hospital correct congenital defects in her heart. Since then, they have raised well over three hundred thousand pounds for CHUF through their Red Sky Balls and other fundraising events.
Sergio (front left in image above) recently met members of the Freeman team along with the heart console. He said: “It’s been absolutely fantastic to see this pioneering technology first hand and meet so many members of this amazing team. “It’s so important when setting up fundraising events to be able to show where the money raised goes to and so we’re delighted to finally share this with our many supporters from the Wearside area.”
Chris Gray, our CEO says “We work extremely closely with the team at Freeman Hospital and are always looking at new ways to support their life-changing care. We are delighted to have the opportunity to see this revolutionary technology and be able to show our hundreds of supporters how their mighty fundraising efforts are being put to great use.”
CHUF has raised over £10m for the Freeman Hospital since its inception, funding vital equipment, salaries and research. Our Trustees have committed donations of £400,000 to help fund the ongoing use of the Transmedics heart console. “We are incredibly fortunate to have so many like-minded supporters who work tirelessly to raise funds for CHUF. To see where their money is put to use is immensely satisfying. We wish to take this opportunity to thank all who continue to support our amazing charity.”
CHUF hopes to continue funding life-saving equipment such as the Organ Care System. The support of our incredible fundraisers is absolutely vital in making this a reality. If you would like to raise funds for CHUF, we’d love to hear from you!
Children's Heart Unit Fund - CHUF
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CHUF is a registered charity in England and Wales No 1160831 © 2021.