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Woman who underwent a pioneering six-organ transplant dies just 15 months after surgeryDawn Carter had a new stomach, liver, kidney, colon, pancreas and intestine53-year-old was only the third person to have the procedureShe spent six months in hospital recovering and had to re-learn how to walk But her health deteriorated suddenly in January after a series of infections
16:22 GMT, 10 April 2013
16:51 GMT, 10 April 2013
Dawn Carter died just over a year after complex transplant surgery
A woman who was given a pioneering six-organ transplant has died 15 months after surgery.
Dawn Carter underwent the 17-hour procedure in December 2011 to give her a new stomach, liver, kidney, colon, pancreas and small intestine.
She was only the third to have have had such a operation. The first survivor, Stephen Hyett, received a new liver, kidney, stomach, duodenum, pancreas and small bowel in 1994.
Ms Carter, 53, from Northallerton, Yorkshire, had worked as an intensive care nurse, and needed the drastic transplant after being diagnosed with end-stage liver disease in 2011.
But in February this year, just after
telling her story to the Mail on Sunday, she was diagnosed with partial
rejection of two organs.
Last month she suffered an infection that
triggered the first of several strokes which left her brain dead.
Her partner, Martin Burch, spent the last seven weeks of Ms Carter's life by her side at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
When it was clear she was not going to recover, her mother Dorothy and her brother Larry also joined the bedside vigil.
Mr Burch said: ‘They saw her for the last time and they switched the ventilator off and she died on Thursday, March 28.’
Ms Carter's health problems began when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel complaint, at 19.
A decade later, she underwent an operation to remove a section of her colon at Leeds General Infirmary.
Her digestive health continued to deteriorate, leading to several more operations, which eventually left her with just five per cent of her intestine.
This led to her receiving all her nutrition via fluids intravenously.
In 2011, Ms Carter was told that her liquid diet had damaged her liver and she had end-stage liver disease. Referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, her only chance of survival was a multi-organ transplant.
Following the death of a female donor in her twenties, a 12-strong team of medics – composed of four surgeons, two anaesthetists, two operating department practitioners, two theatre nurses and two theatre staff – transplanted all the organs in an operation that finished on Christmas Eve in 2011.
Only 30 out of 88,0000 transplants undertaken in Britain have involved three or more organs being implanted at once.
Shortly after the operation, Ms Carter admitted she had been scared at the prospect of the rare procedure, but said she had gone ahead knowing she had ‘no choices left’.
‘I didn’t hold any fear about the operation,’ said Ms Carter. ‘In the anaesthetic room I thought, “This might be the last time I am alive”. But I felt fortunate I was getting this chance.’
Afterwards Ms Carter spent nine weeks on a ventilator in intensive care. During this time, she underwent a further 12 operations to treat complications, which included bleeding from her new liver and pancreas. She also required a 17-pint blood transfusion.
The remarkable procedure was carried out by four surgeons, two anaesthetists, two operating department practitioners, two theatre nurses and two theatre staff
‘I wasn’t well enough to read and I
had no other patients to talk to,’ Ms Carter told the Mail on Sunday. 'I hadn’t expected to
feel so ill for so long. I lost my hair and nails because all my blood
flow was going to my new organs to help them. But I got some wigs and
In total, she spent six months in hospital and had to learn to walk again. She
also had to take 18 tablets a day – immunosuppressant drugs,
antibiotics, enzymes and multivitamins.
Her brother said she was beginning to enjoy better health by autumn last year and briefly returned to her work with Northallerton and District Voluntary Service Association.
‘She was getting back to a kind of normality and enjoyed the Christmas we promised we’d have together,’ he said. ‘She had made plans to return to work in January, which she did briefly, but a series of infections saw her return to Cambridge for treatment.’