A petite cystic fibrosis sufferer has recieved a life-saving double lung transplant – after surgeons used a pioneering technique to TRIM the donor organs down to size.
Former nursery worker Hayley Wall, 27, is just 4ft 8in and only six-and-a-half stone, making it difficult for doctors to find donor lungs small enough to fit her little body.
But they were forced to rethink when her health deteriorated and used much-larger donor organs and kept them ‘working’ on a machine as they trimmed them down to fit.
Upbeat Hayley, from Plymouth, Devon, is now recovering from the operation and is delighted to be taking her first deep breaths in decades.
Inspirational Hayley said: “I was told I could be waiting for more than 18 months and that my small size would make it difficult to find a matching pair.
“At first I found the concept of donor lungs being cut to fit me quite scary, but I’m amazed by the technology and surgeons’ techniques that allowed it to happen.
“They saved my life and I can breathe with my new lungs better than ever, even though I don’t have complete lungs.
“I was told to take a deep breath which was scary because I never could before. As more days went by I could take deeper breaths. After 27 years of suffering, it was a wonderful feeling.”
Hayley was diagnosed with the inherited condition – which damages the lungs and digestive system, and can also lead to poor growth – at birth.
At the age 14 she started to have recurrent chest infections and her condition worsened, and for the last two years before her op she needed portable oxygen constantly.
Her older sister Gemma also had cystic fibrosis and sadly died in 2010, aged 26.
Hayley was put onto the waiting list in early 2014, but doctors warned it would be difficult to find organs which would fit her small frame, and time was running out.
“I was scared because my lung function was dropping and I was approaching the same age as Gemma when she died,” said Hayley, who is engaged to fiance James.
Last December, after a month-long stay in her local hospital, she got the call to say suitable lungs had been found – but that doctors would need to trim them to size.
Hayley said: “I was excited but I felt numb. I went to hospital with my dad and when it was time to go, I cried and hugged my mum goodbye.
“I told her I’d see her soon, and she said: ‘You’d better.'”
Lungs are made of separate units, known as lobes, which each contain blood vessels, airways and lung tissue, with three lobes on the right, and two on the left.
Doctors at Harefield Hospital in north-west London carried out a lobar transplant – they removed lobes from the donor lung until it matched the size of Hayley’s damaged lungs.
They used a revolutionary transplant technology – known as the Organ Care System – to ventilate them outside of the body while they cut them to the perfect fit for Hayley.
“I knew the surgery was complex but all I wanted to do was have the transplant if it meant I would wake up and finally be able to breathe,” said Hayley, who woke up in intensive care a day after her op.
“I’m very grateful to my donor and their family and I will do my donor proud.”
Hayley’s long-term use of antibiotics has resulted in severe hearing loss, but the op means she could now be well enough for a cochlear implant.
Her proud father Wayne Quick, 54, said: “Hayley may have the looks of a lamb but she has the heart of a lion – I’m so proud of her.”
The operation was carried out by Mr Fabio De Robertis.
He said: “Very petite patients tend to remain on the waiting list for a long period and can sometimes run out of time waiting for organs of the right size to become available.
“Small patients have small lungs, so it is not always possible to transplant an average-sized lung.
“Usually we use a technique known as lung volume reduction where we essentially ‘shave off’ some areas of the donor’s lungs; but for some patients, including Hayley, the organs are still too big afterwards.
“To carry out a lobar transplant, where we remove lobes from each donor lung to match the size of the recipient’s lungs, the donor needs to be significantly taller than the recipient so that the lobe used is as big as the patient’s entire lung.”