Theatre group help highlight National Transplant Week

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

To mark National Transplant Week the atrium of Southmead Hospital’s Brunel building provided the backdrop for a performance from Bristol theatre group Misfits.

The group made up of people with learning difficulties was invited to the new hospital to highlight the work that goes on in North Bristol NHS Trust to support people with learning difficulties to undergo kidney transplants.

The renal transplant team based at Southmead Hospital Bristol are leading the way in delivering a patient pathway tailored to people with learning difficulties and complex needs who might not otherwise be able to undergo the life-changing procedure.

The team work with the relatives and carers of people with learning difficulties so that they can continue their role throughout the time spent in hospital. One-stop clinics are also held to enable patients to meet the healthcare professions, such as anaesthetists and nurses who will be involved in their care ahead of the procedure so that they are better prepared for their time in hospital.

People who have already had kidney transplants and those waiting for an operation were invited to see the Misfits perform George and the Dragon inside the Brunel, while staff, patients and passersby were also encouraged to enjoy the “street theatre” unfolding in front of them.

Maria Papi with her son Marco

Among the people who attended the National Transplant Week performance was Maria Papi, whose 33-year-old son Marco needs a kidney transplant.

Marco was diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder tuberous sclerosis before he turned two-years-old. It was initially picked up as a result of epilepsy, but has also affected his kidneys causing their function to reduce significantly and now he needs a transplant.

Marco has no verbal communication but has led a full and active life living in the community with carers.

His parents have had to make decisions for Marco all his life but found the decision about a transplant one of the most difficult.

Because of his condition he is not suitable for renal dialysis which means a kidney from a living donor would be the best way forward for him. But with no suitable donors within his small family his parents hope he will be lucky enough to receive a kidney from a stranger, known as an altruistic donation.

Maria, of Failand, said: “Marco deserves to have the opportunity of a transplant to prolong his life like everyone else.

“He gives so much and is truly a great teacher of life to those around him.”

She added: “People with this condition have had successful transplants so it is our light at the end of the tunnel.

 “If he has this transplant he could continue to have a whole and fruitful life.”

The renal team at Southmead Hospital have carried out several kidney transplants in people with complex needs in the last year and have about ten more awaiting transplants.

Renal recipient nurse Jo Metcalfe said that supporting people with complex learning difficulties to have transplants improves quality of life for both the patients and their families.

“We look after the family as well as the patient because they will often be the carers who usually look after these patients,” she said.

“There is so much pleasure in seeing people who have had a transplant and how well they are doing when the alternative is something you don’t want to think about. They all come in with smiles on their faces and that is also an inspiration for those people waiting to go on the transplant list.”

Jo added: “The Misfits did a fantastic job and exceeded our expectations. They drew in an audience and everyone joined in.”

In the 2013-2014 financial year North Bristol NHS Trust carried out 143 Transplants.

Of these, 53 were from living donors, with eight the result of altruistic donations from people the recipient did not know.

The other 90 were from deceased donors.

To find out more about donating organs visit

Misfits perform in the atrium of Southmead Hospital Bristol's Brunel building