Five people who underwent lifesaving transplant operations within a record-breaking 36 hours at one NHS hospital have reunited to urge others to join the Organ Donor Register.
The two men and three women, aged between 23 and 67, received between them two hearts, two sets of lungs and one single lung.
A team of more than 40 staff, including five surgeons, were involved, with several coming in on their days off at the Royal Papworth Hospital near Cambridge.
Surgery took place over 36 hours in February.
The patients met up at the hospital six months later.
The five patients whose lives were saved are 23-year-old Luke Palfreyman, of Barnsley and Dan Peel, 26, of Reading, who both received double lung transplants, 67-year-old Yvonne Dunham of Fressingfield, Suffolk, and Joanne Hext, 54, of Horndean, Hampshire, who both had heart transplants, and 46-year-old Michelle Hemmings, of Birmingham, who had a single lung transplant.
Mr Peel said he is back at work as an engineer and has just completed a charity climb of Mount Snowdon in Wales.
He required a double lung transplant after being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which he described as arteries of the lungs being “squeezed”, placing strain on the heart.
He said he was told he “might have passed away within the year” without surgery.
“When I was healthy I was at uni, I was playing all sorts of sports, football, cricket, I was surfing, playing golf, and one by one those sports were taken away from me as each year went through before my transplant to the point where I couldn’t walk up two flights of stairs without potentially blacking out, so the journey’s been incredible,” he said.
He added that since his surgery “life has changed completely”.
“I’m back to full health now, I’m fit again, I can run, I can swim, I can play sport, last weekend I climbed Mount Snowdon which for me is an incredible journey six months post-transplant,” he said.
He described the hospital staff as “brilliant” and urged people to join the Organ Donor Register, adding: “If we can get just a couple more people signed up donating their organs and have that conversation with their families then that’s a couple more lives saved.”
Ms Dunham was diagnosed in 1989 with an inherited heart disease which had claimed the life of her brother Kevin in 1992, aged 37.
She had a heart transplant and describes herself as “one of the Famous Five”.
She said she has written a letter to her donor’s family – an anonymous process through the hospital with an option for contact at a later stage if both parties are willing.
“You just have to be thankful there are people who are willing to donate and families who are willing to agree to it because without them none of us would be having a future that we now have,” she said.
Transplant co-ordinator Sadie Von Joel, who worked a 27-hour shift as part of the effort, said it was a hospital record to complete so many transplant operations within such a short window of time.
“It was a real one-off,” she said, adding it was “unusual” to have so many offers of organs in that period of time and for them to match the recipients.
The five operations were among 102 heart and lung transplants in the 2017-18 financial year, which was another hospital record.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, call 0300 123 23 23, or see www.organdonation.nhs.uk or www.organdonationscotland.org to register online.