Patients at the Royal Free Hospital have taken centre stage in a new exhibition which explores organ transplantation. 

The exhibition, Transplant and Life, launched on Tuesday at the Royal College of Surgeons’ Huntarian Museum.

Visitors will be able to explore the lives of patients who have received organ transplants, those on the waiting list, and live donors through innovatively merged sound, photography and video.

Artists Tim Wainwright and John Wynne have worked with patients and staff at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and Harefield Hospital to reveal intimate experiences and raise awareness of organ transplantation and the challenges surrounding it. The exhibition also aims to encourage donor registration.

Alongside the exhibition, an interactive digital guide features information about past and future developments in transplantation and documentary materials, including the perspectives of patients, live donors and medical professionals. Visitors to the museum will be able to access the guide via smartphone or tablet and it is also available to the public on an online platform. New material will be continuously added to the platform to further enrich the exhibition.

Transplant and Life tells the story of more than 30 patients, including Jon whose sister Jenny donated one of her kidneys to him, and Susan, who describes the conflicting emotions the receipt of an organ from a deceased donor can engender. Through the digital guide there is also a chance to hear from some of the pioneering surgeons who have led the way in transplant surgery, including  Sir Terence English, who performed Britain’s first successful heart transplant in 1979, and renal transplant specialist Ms Lorna Marson.

Tim Wainwright and John Wynne said: “The participants in Transplant and Life have generously shared their deeply private experiences and thoughts, and it has been a privilege to have worked with so many transplant patients, either in their homes or by their hospital beds.

“The project was an opportunity for us to not only make new work with kidney, liver and pancreas transplant patients but also to revisit five of the heart and lung transplant patients we first worked with ten years ago. We invited participants to talk about whatever was important to them, and their contributions are remarkably diverse and engaging.”

Dr Robin Woolfson, divisional director of transplant and specialist services at the Royal Free, said: “We were delighted to have been involved in this wonderful exhibition and that our patients have been able to share their experiences of transplantation in this way.  

“We are very proud of our liver and kidney transplant programmes and I hope that the exhibition will encourage more people to join the organ donation register – a decision which could change or save someone’s life.”

Joyce Wilson, London area director, Arts Council England, said:  “I’m pleased we’ve been able to support Transplant and Life through our Grants for the Arts Programme. It is a brilliant example of how art can help us understand life and explore our relationship with death. This exciting collaboration shows how unexpected partnerships can provide new experiences for us all, and generate new and diverse audiences for arts and culture.”

Karen Taylor, Arts manager at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were delighted to support the project, which has been a wonderful opportunity for our patients to share their stories and celebrate their lives ten years on from their transplants."

The exhibition runs until Saturday 20 May 2017 in the Crystal Gallery at the Royal College of Surgeon’s Hunterian Museum. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, and admission is free.


Image: A picture from the exhibition

Notes to editors

About the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

The Royal Free began as a pioneering organisation and continues to play a leading role in the care of patients. Our mission is to provide world class expertise and local care. In the 21st century, the Royal Free London continues to lead improvements in healthcare.

The Royal Free London attracts patients from across the country and beyond to its specialist services in liver and kidney transplantation, haemophilia, renal care, HIV, infectious diseases, plastic surgery, immunology, Parkinson's disease, vascular surgery, cardiology, amyloidosis and scleroderma and we are a member of the academic health science partnership UCLPartners.

In July 2014 Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital became part of the Royal Free London. Read 'A bigger trust, a better future'.