A year inside a world leading transplant centre

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A year inside a world leading transplant centre

For the past year I've been filming a feature-length documentary about organ donation and transplant for the BBC. I took everything I'd learnt from making my short doc A Love Worth Giving, and was given a chance to embed at the Freeman Hospital Newcastle, a world leading centre for transplant medicine.

What me and my small team witnessed was truly remarkable. The courage and bravery of patients waiting for suitable donor organs was testament to how precious life really is. Patients arrived at the hospital and some never left.

Of all donor organs, hearts are the hardest to come by, not only do they have to be the right match, 70% of those donated are too diseased to use.

But while I was filming, these pioneering surgeons began to trial a new Ex Vivo Perfusion machine for the heart which enables the organ to stay alive outside the body. This technology already exists for other organs and in Canada they're even using it to repair diseased lungs, which increases the pool of available organs.

One night, towards the end of filming, the transplant coordinators called me to say a donor heart had been found for one of their patients, but the organ was in another country and would take too long to transport on ice. Hearts don't survive very long outside a body. So they decided to take the new Ex Vivo perfusion machine. The next morning, I was able to film this heart being implanted into the patient, a man in his 50's called Joy. Without this new tech, he would not have got this heart.

My hope is that this film will empower people to make the best choices they can, whether that's to go for transplant as a patient or to donate organs at the end of life.

Heart Transplant: A Chance To Live
Mon 14 May
BBC Two at 9pm

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