The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds Teaching Hospitals to feature in BBC3's The Human Tissue Squad

29 August 2014

A four year old patient who had a pulmonary artery transplant at the Leeds Children's Hospital Leeds General Infirmary is set to be featured in a new two-part documentary series on BBC Three. The first episode will air at 9pm on Monday 1st September.

The Human Tissue Squad shows the work of NHS Blood and Transplant’s national tissue bank and the patients who benefit from tissue donated by people after their deaths.

Laiela Nalton fromEast Yorkshire, was born with a heart defect that threatens to cut her very young life short. She needed a pulmonary artery transp,lant,  but the challenge is that the right size of heart valve or artery for a baby or child is crucial to allow vital surgery to go ahead.

Last year, 156 hearts that couldn’t be used for an organ transplant were donated across the UK. Their valves and arteries were processed and made fit for transplant by NHS Blood and Transplant’s tissue bank in Speke, Liverpool, and provided vital grafts for patients like Laiela.

Heart valves and arteries can be stored for up to ten years.  But in reality, the patient need within the NHS means that often they are used for treatment soon after being donated.Laiela was one of 44 adult and paediatric patients at Leeds General Infirmary to benefit from a heart valve or pulmonary artery transplant at the hospital last year. 

Miss Carin Van Doorn, Laiela's surgeon, said: "Laiela desperately needed a transplant. As a surgeon it's amazing being able to provide the surgery a patient like Laiela needs, but we are only able to do so because families say yes to tissue donation when a loved one dies."

Laiela's mum, Kelly, said: "Without a family agreeing to donate, Laiela wouldn’t be here today. We can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done.  If the shoe was on the other foot, I'd like to think that if we’d donated tissues or organs that they’d gone to someone to lead a normal life.”

Helen Gillan, General Manager at NHS Tissue Services, part of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "Our Tissue Service is the only tissue bank in the UK that operates from initial donor referral through to the hospitals who use the donated tissue to improve patients's lives. I hope viewers watching the programmes will see how patients such as Laiela depend on the generosity of donors’ families, how my colleagues in the tissue service treat donors with respect during the retrieval process and how dedicated and committed the team are providing life enhancing tissues to hospitals up and down the country. 

Although the tissue bank need donors of all ages, often the healthiest tissues come from young people.  And patients like Laiela, where the size of the graft is important, need tissue from someone young. In the last year only 51 tissue donors were under 35.

If the programmes inspire you to donate, please sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.You can make clear what organs you would like to donate and also confirm that you want to donate your tissues too. In reality, it's easier to donate tissue than organs after your death as there’s a longer window during which you can donate and you don’t have to die in hospital to become a tissue donor. Making the decision to become a donor and telling your loved ones that’s what you want to do are important steps to potentially saving or enhancing the lives of others in the future through either organ or tissue donation.

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk

To find out more about tissue donation visit www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/tissuedonation

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs
  • NHSBT Tissue Services is now the largest multi-tissue banking organisation in the UK. It is a significant leader in the development of national and international standards, policies and regulation in the field.
  • As many as 50 people can be helped from the donation from one person.
  • Tendons can be donated to help rebuild damaged joints, which helps people move more easily
  • Bone is important for people receiving artificial joint replacements, or replacing bone that has been removed due to illness or injury. It helps reduce pain and improve mobility
  • Skin can be used as a natural dressing, helping treat people with serious burns. This can save lives by stopping infections, can help reduce scarring and reduces pain
  • Heart valves can be transplanted to save the lives of children born with heart defects, and adults with damaged heart valves
  • Eyes can help restore sight to people with cornea problems (the clear part of the eye). This may be a result of damage caused by eye disease or injury, or defects from birth, and the white part of the eye (the sclera) can be used in operations to rebuild the eye.