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Grandmum’s life changed by groundbreaking lung repair procedure


Jenny Boardman

Jenny Boardman

Tony Hall

Jenny Boardman

A Northern Ireland woman is alive today after getting a new lung which had been repaired by a revolutionary process being tested at the Freeman Hospital.

Jenny Boardman, from Randalstown, is one of only a handful of people to have received a lung which has gone through the repair process at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne hospital.

Mrs Boardman said: “I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t signed up for the trial.

“I got the call to say they may have a lung for me on my granddaughter’s first birthday. I was convinced I would get over to Newcastle and they would tell me I was too sick for the operation or that the lung wasn’t good enough.

“I didn’t want to go, but my husband made me.”

The lung is often too damaged as a result of the cause of death of the donor for it to be successfully transplanted.

This means it is harder for the transplant team to find a suitable lung for patients, which in turn means they face lengthy and uncertain waits for their operation. However, doctors have developed a procedure, known as ex-vivo lung perfusion, which is being trialled at hospitals around the world.

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Mrs Boardman was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and her condition deteriorated until doctors told her she may be suitable for a lung transplant.

She was given an appointment to attend a satellite clinic at the City Hospital in Belfast, attended by Professor Andrew Fisher, Professor of Respiratory Transplant Medicine at the Freeman Hospital.

Professor Fisher is one of a team of people who assess whether patients from Northern Ireland are suitable for a lung transplant. He is also behind bringing the ex-vivo lung perfusion procedure to the Freeman Hospital.

During the procedure, the lung is attached to specialist machines which pump oxygen through the organ, helping to repair the damage before the transplant. This is what happened in Mrs Boardman’s case.

“After about eight hours of the lung being on the machine, they told me they were going to go ahead with the operation,” she explained.

“The next thing I remember is waking up the next morning. I coughed and then took a big deep breath. It was the first time I was able to do that in years.

“I got home after four weeks and my life is completely different. Before I was on oxygen 24-hours a day and I had to use a wheelchair when I went out.

“The first time I came home my granddaughter was there and she didn’t recognise me. I put on my oxygen mask and she came straight over.”