16 July 2015
A Harefield Hospital patient has become the first person in the world to be officially named the longest surviving heart-lung transplant recipient by Guinness World Records.
After celebrating the 30th anniversary of his transplant at Harefield earlier this year, Andrew Whitby, 51, from Teddington, south west London, has now received the certificate confirming his world record, making him the first person in history to hold the title.
Andrew was born with a congenital heart condition, commonly referred to as a ‘hole in the heart’, which meant his heart had to work much harder than normal to pump oxygenated blood around his body. When he was diagnosed at six months, Andrew’s parents were told his defect was inoperable and that he was unlikely to live for more than a few years.
Incredibly Andrew surpassed his doctors’ expectations and against the odds lived a relatively normal life growing up.
“I felt the same as any other child – I went to school, played football and did the same things as my classmates, although I remember getting tired quickly during physical activities.”
However, aged 20, Andrew’s health quickly deteriorated and he developed pleurisy, inflammation of the sheet-like layers (the pleura) that cover the lungs. Doctors thought his heart defect may have put more pressure on his lungs, contributing to the condition.
In December 1984 one of Andrew’s lungs collapsed and he was referred to Harefield Hospital where his suitability for a heart-lung transplant was assessed.
In February 1985, under the care of pioneering transplant surgeon Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, Andrew became only the ninth person to ever have the procedure in the UK. Professor Yacoub had carried out the UK’s first combined heart and lung transplant at Harefield in 1983.
“Looking back now, it is remarkable to think that I was one of the first people to have a heart-lung transplant. At the time I was told I had a 70 per cent chance of living for five years. I’m very lucky when you consider the people who had the same procedure before me are no longer alive. Now I feel that every day I live is a bonus.
“Now I’m generally in good health. I think being active has helped me to stay healthy – I like walking and swimming and during the summer I walk the 2.5 miles to work and back.”
Andrew was reminded of the value of organ donation when his nephew died suddenly nine years ago, three weeks before his 18th birthday. Aware of his uncle’s transplant, he had signed the Organ Donor Register and following his death some of his organs were donated to patients waiting for life-saving transplants.
“His death was a tragedy but knowing he helped other people to live provided comfort. It made me feel even more grateful to my donor.”
Thanks to the heart-lung transplant he had 30 years ago, Andrew is still active and working in retail today.
“It’s very exciting to have a Guinness World Record and I want to use it to boost awareness of how life changing transplantation really is.
“My heart-lung transplant has improved and extended my life beyond measure. We need more people to sign the Organ Donor Register – without donors, where would that leave people like me?”
Mr Andre Simon, director of transplantation at Harefield Hospital, said:
“Andrew’s world record shows how a person’s life can be completely transformed through the gift of organ donation. For hundreds of patients every year in the UK, heart and lung transplantation is the only treatment that can offer them a future. His achievement should inspire other patients who have received donated organs, as well as those still waiting for a life-saving transplant.
“We are proud of the fact that Harefield Hospital has the best long-term survival rates in the UK for patients who have had a heart or lung transplant. Andrew is living proof that ongoing specialist care and a healthy lifestyle can mean patients can enjoy a good quality of life after transplant.”
To mark Harefield Hospital’s centenary year, Andrew is taking part in the annual Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity Fun Run on September 6, when it is also hoped that more than 189 heart transplant patients will gather in one place (Harefield Hospital), which would break another Guinness World Record.
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