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A world first: British banker donates TWO vital organs – a lung and now and a kidney – to save life of his childhood sweetheartDavid Whaymand, 39, donates kidney 13 years after giving his wife a lungFirst known case of volunteer giving more than one organ
22:15 GMT, 29 December 2012
Few gifts could be more precious than the one David Whaymand gave to his wife Carolyn this Christmas. When cystic fibrosis sufferer Carolyn was told her kidneys were failing and that her only chance of survival was a transplant, her devoted husband stepped in without hesitation to offer one of his own organs.
It was a touching gesture of love and one David was happy to make after 15 years of marriage to his childhood sweetheart. But what makes his sacrifice all the more remarkable is that, in similarly desperate circumstances 13 years ago, David also gave Carolyn a portion of one of his lungs. These two inspiring deeds are now thought to represent a world first.
Doctors and transplant experts say there are no known cases in which a living donor has given up two organs. This is due to the serious risks of such surgery. The fact that the recipient in both case was David's own wife makes the story even more extraordinary – especially considering that it is highly unusual for a husband to be able to donate to his spouse, as finding a suitable match for a transplant is notoriously difficult.
Gift of life: Husband David Whayland was a donor for his wife Carolyn's kidney transplant just before Christmas
World class treatment: Carolyn received her transplant at Hammersmith Hospital in West London
The latest successful operation took place at Hammersmith Hospital in West London on December 12 and the couple were back at their 500,000 home in Ingatestone, Essex, in time for Christmas.
David, 39, an accountant for bank J.P. Morgan, told The Mail on Sunday: 'They say marriage is in sickness and in health. When I married Carolyn I knew it wouldn't be easy and that she might die without a transplant. When it came to me being a live donor, I didn't hesitate for a second.
'I was prepared to make the sacrifice that could have seen us both lose our lives. I couldn't stand by and watch Carolyn die for want of a lung donor.
'And when it turned out she needed a kidney, of course I was ready to make the sacrifice again. 'It was child's play compared with the first operation, which was definitely more risky.'
For solicitor Carolyn, 42, it is difficult to explain just how much David's sacrifices have meant to her.
'He's more worried about my suffering than his own,' she says.
About 1,000 people in the UK give up a kidney for a friend or loved one every year. The Human Tissue Authority, which regulates all donations by living people, must decide who is suitable.
Volunteers must prove they are in robust health and understand what the lengthy, physically arduous process will involve.
There can be a 12-week recovery period, and a one-in-3,000 risk of dying while having a kidney removed.
Carolyn, who was diagnosed with the genetic condition cystic fibrosis aged two, was already on the transplant list when David proposed in 1996.
The couple, who met when they were teenagers, were married the following year. Cystic fibrosis affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with sticky mucus, making it hard to breathe and digest food.
In sickness and in health: David and Carolyn were childhood sweethearts before marrying in 1997
Only half of sufferers live past the age of 40. Within a year of their marriage, Carolyn's situation became more desperate.
'I was on oxygen a lot of the time and towards the end I was on it all of the time,' she says.
'But neither of us had ever considered that David could donate part of his lung.'
Carolyn was receiving her treatment at the specialist lung unit at Harefield Hospital in Uxbridge, West London, when a friend saw a magazine article on lung donation.
'The doctors were very cautious and said they had done some live lung transplants at Harefield. But the operations were risky for both the donor and the recipient,' she says.
'They explained the survival rate wasn't very high and there was a strong risk that I might not pull through afterwards.'
At first the couple rejected the idea but as Carolyn became increasingly ill, it suddenly became their only option.
David, along with four members of Carolyn's family, including her father and brother, volunteered to be tested to see if they could donate.
Unusually, David turned out to be a good match and Carolyn's cousin also offered a section of his lung.
'We had to take a gamble on live donation because I might have got to the stage where I was too sick to have a transplant from a donor – live or dead,' says Carolyn.
'Both David and my cousin agreed – after counselling – that they were prepared to risk their lives to save mine. Both were desperate to see me living a normal life.'
Pioneer: Sir Magdi Yacoub, Carolyn's surgeon during her lung surgery, is one of Britain's experts on organ transplants
David adds: 'I had watched her deteriorate and it was enough for me to do something about it. The risks were there, but there was no question I would donate.'
The pioneering surgery, carried out by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, one of the world's leading transplant surgeons, was hugely controversial because so many patients had died during previous procedures.
In fact the operation has subsequently been suspended in Britain because of the risks. Today, Carolyn is regarded as something of a medical miracle because she is one of only four patients who underwent the procedure in the UK and survived.
Only about 50 per cent of any lung transplant patients are still alive after ten years, so the fact she has survived 13 years with very limited problems makes her tale all the more remarkable. Carolyn's lungs function perfectly and she has near-normal breathing.
However, she has needed to take powerful drugs to suppress her immune system and prevent her body from rejecting the new organ. She still also has the digestive problems associated with cystic fibrosis and must take daily enzymes and immuno-suppressive drugs that have had an effect on other organs.
About five per cent of those who have lung transplants go on to suffer kidney damage because of these drugs.
Unfortunately, Carolyn is one of those affected, and during the past 12 months doctors informed her that tests showed she would soon need dialysis or a kidney transplant. She says: 'Ordinarily, going on to dialysis wouldn't have been a problem, but I was at added risk by being someone who had already had a transplant.
'There was an increased risk of picking up an infection and the effect of the dialysis on my anti-rejection medication. The doctors were worried it would put me at risk.'
For David, who was left with a scar on his back after donating part of his lung, the answer was simple.
He says: 'I had invested part of my lung all those years ago and it was ironic that the drugs used to keep Carolyn's lung healthy had damaged her kidneys and I was called upon again.
'I love her, and I wasn't prepared to see what I gave to her all that time ago put at risk.'
The latest operation was carried out by Professor Nadey Hakim of Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust. David was discharged on December 17, and Carolyn was allowed home four days later.
David expects to be well enough to return to work in the middle of January, while Carolyn will be recovering for several months.
A spokesman for the Human Tissue Authority said: 'This would appear to be a first. Live donors are a very important part of the transplant programme.
'Mr Whaymand should be congratulated on giving twice.'
Prof Hakim added: 'It is amazing for someone to give an organ twice. In all my years in transplant surgery I have not heard of an example.'
Carolyn's lung physician, Dr Martin Carby, said: 'I'm not aware of any other individual donating tissue twice to a spouse or any other – it is an extraordinary case. The lung donation would have been the more risky of the two transplants. But I admire anyone who gives an organ twice.'
David is prepared to donate again should Carolyn need his help a third time – although his options are understandably limited.
He says: 'I wouldn't think twice about doing it again if I had to, although all I have left to give is my liver [the only remaining organ he, as a living donor, could donate part of].
'Ironically, doing this for Carolyn has actually improved my life expectancy because I'm having such regular check-ups. 'Both times, the medical teams have been just fantastic. If our story can encourage other people to become living donors, that would be wonderful.'