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Cystic fibrosis sufferer given smoker's lungs in transplant died of cancer less than a year after operationJennifer Wederell was given the lungs of a 20-a-day smokerA year after the operation she died of cancer
Husband says she would never have agreed to transplant had she known
11:57 GMT, 17 December 2012
Battle: Jennifer Wederell died at the age of 27 from lung cancer. She had a transplant to try and save her from cystic fibrosis
She delayed her wedding for two years while she waited for a lung transplant to save her from the cystic fibrosis that had claimed her brother’s life.
The operation was a success, and last autumn an overjoyed Jennifer Wederell walked down the aisle to marry her boyfriend of four years, David.
Less than a year later, Mrs Wederell was dead, killed by cancer which her family are certain came from the donated lungs – which they found out, too late, had belonged to a 20-a-day smoker.
Mr Wederell says there is no way that his wife, who died in August at the age of 27, would ever have agreed to the transplant had she known the lungs came from a smoker.
Along with his wife’s parents, Mr Wederell, 28, is now campaigning for more non-smokers to register as organ donors, to prevent other families going through the same agony.
While it is easy to assume that only pristine organs are used in transplants, a severe shortage of donors means that almost 40 per cent of lungs used in the operations come from donors who have smoked.
Research shows that a seriously ill patient is much more likely to die from turning down a transplant than from accepting lungs donated by a smoker.
Essex-born Mrs Wederell was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of two.
The disease, in which the lungs and digestive system become clogged with thick, sticky mucus, is hereditary.
It claimed the life of her older brother, Richard Grannell, when he was just 23.
Mrs Wederell met her future husband through friends in 2007. /12/17/article-2249189-168B50EB000005DC-173_634x404.jpg” width=”634″ height=”404″ alt=”Celebration: Jennifer with husband Dave and close family members following their wedding in Autumn 2011. The couple had delayed the ceremony by two years while she waited for the transplant” class=”blkBorder” />
Celebration: Jennifer with husband Dave and close family members following their wedding in Autumn 2011. The couple had delayed the ceremony by two years while she waited for the transplant
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But Mrs Wederell was treated under the previous rules, and was not told that the lungs had come from a 20-a-day smoker.
Mr Wederell, who works in IT, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘That would have been the time to say, “The donor was a smoker, therefore there is a higher risk of malignancy. Do you want to go ahead or not”
‘They didn’t mention it. If they had, she would have said no.’
The transplant, which was carried out at
the Harefield Hospital in Uxbridge, West London, appeared to be a
success and the couple married a few months later. Mr Wederell said:
‘Weddings are always happy but this was something else.
Love: David and Jennifer were engaged in July 2009. Prior to the proposal David sought permission from Jennifer's father who made sure David understood exactly what this commitment meant
In this picture (left) from 2007, Jennifer showed her own daily routine of medication
A few months later, however, her happiness was shattered when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was only then that she was told her new lungs had belonged to a smoker.
Mr Wederell is adamant that they were the source of the cancer.
She died at home in Hawkwell, Essex, on August 24. Her father, Colin Grannell, 57, said: ‘Yes, she had a fantastic wedding day but her death was horrible.
‘I would have given up the good times not to see her die like that.’
(Left) Jennifer as a proud bridesmaid for the first time aged 11-years-old in 1996. (Right) Aged two, when her condition was diagnosed
Along with his wife and son-in-law, Mr Grannell has now set up a Facebook page called Jennifer’s Choice to encourage more non-smokers to register as organ donors.
Mr Grannell says he wants those who have waited years for a transplant to have the choice his daughter never had.
He told the Daily Mail: ‘All we want is to give Jennifer what she would have wanted. People need to be given more information. There must be more choice and more transparency.’
The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust said it extended its sincere condolences to the family.
A spokesman added that while it was ‘very rare’ for patients to specify they do not want lungs from smokers, Mrs Wederell should have had the choice. He said that research shows that a patient’s chance of survival is higher if they receive a smoker’s lungs than if they remain on the waiting list for a transplant from a donor with no history of smoking.
He added: ‘Regrettably, the number of lungs available for transplantation would fall by 40 per cent if there was a policy of refusing those which have come from a smoker; waiting lists would increase and many more patients would die without a transplant.’
NHS Blood and Transplant, which runs the organ donor register, said that all organs are examined at least twice before being transplanted and although the risks are very small, they are impossible to eliminate.