On Tuesday 20 October, the BBC documentary Surgeons: At the edge of life will show David (pictured below) receiving a double lung transplant. David received his new lungs earlier this year at the Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. The show airs on BBC2 at 21:00 on the 20th October 2020.

In the third episode of this critically acclaimed series, transplant surgeons Marius Berman and Pedro Catarino take on one of the most difficult transplant procedures at Royal Papworth; the double lung transplant. With donor organs in such short supply, there is even more pressure to execute the operation perfectly.

Their patient, 52-year-old ex-plasterer David, is urgently called into hospital when a suitable set of donor lungs become available. David suffers from a genetic disorder called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which is destroying the air sacs in his lungs. Tragically, he and his sister Kay have already lost their older brother to the same condition, so they are acutely aware of how urgently David needs the operation. He has already had to wait four months for a suitable donor – in another four month he will be too sick to survive the transplant.

The operation must be carried out with extreme precision and they are also up against the clock. As soon as the donor lungs have been cut from their blood supply, they start to deteriorate, so it is vital that they are transplanted as quickly as possible. Marius and Pedro must start the operation and remove David’s right lung. so they are ready to implant the first lung as soon as the donor organs arrive. After a slight delay, the donor lungs arrive, and Pedro successfully completes the complex procedure of connecting the new right lung.

The newly attached lung must now support David’s body while his second diseased lung is replaced. Initially it appears to be inflating and working well but, just as they cut the blood supply to the diseased lung to remove it, the new donor lung suddenly stops working. Neither of David’s lungs are functioning and they have just minutes to get the donor one working again before David dies.


Above is Mr Marius Berman, Surgical Lead for Transplant and Associate UK Clinical Lead for NHS Blood and Transplant.


Above is Dr Christi Burt, Consultant Anaesthetist