MEDIA RELEASE: Kaylee’s Walk for Life

Kaylee’s Walk for Life – Saturday October 14th, 11.30am
30th Anniversary of the Freeman Hospital’s
Paediatric Heart and Lung Transplant Programme

Kaylee Davidson-Olley, the first successful and longest surviving baby transplant in Europe, is leading her Walk for Life, on Saturday 14th October, exactly 30 years since her heart transplant as a 5 month old baby.

Kaylee will be accompanied by other transplant and heart children, her surgeon, Christopher McGregor, hospital staff, friends and families. Kayee’s Walk for Life will start in Baltic Square, over the Millennium Bridge, finishing at the Copthorne Hotel for a Luncheon, to celebrate a remarkable achievement which has put Newcastle and the North East on the world map – the 30th anniversary of the Freeman Hospital’s Paediatric Heart and Lung Transplant Programme. CHUF, the charity that supports the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman will be attending the event with some of the heart families who have benefitted from the work they do.

Kaylee says – “I am honoured to lead this special event to celebrate 30 years of children’s heart transplantation. Without the generosity of my donor family, I would not be here today and neither would many of the children taking part today. I would urge everyone to talk about organ donation so many more children can receive the gift of life and have the opportunity to live life to the full! We hope that this event will help publicise the need for organ donors for the 36 children in the UK currently waiting for a new heart.”

The first heart transplant at the Freeman Hospital was performed in May 1985 by Mr. Christopher McGregor, on a local woman who survived 25 years. In October 1987, he then performed Kaylee’s heart transplant.

Christopher McGregor- the surgeon who performed Kaylee’s transplant comments:”The success of this programme is due to several important factors –Government and private funding, the vision of Sir Leonard Fenwick and the expertise, dedication and team work of all the staff involved in the transplant programme. I have followed Kaylee’s progress and achievements over the last 30 years, and I am delighted to walk with Kaylee and share her special day and the success of the paediatric heart and lung transplant programme”

The Freeman Hospital is one of only two UK centres’ performing paediatric transplants, and the main centre in the UK transplanting adults born with congenital heart disease.

Mr Asif Hasan, Director of the Heart/Lung Transplant Programme says: “Kaylee is a standard bearer for children’s heart transplantation here in Newcastle, being the youngest survivor of a heart transplant in Europe, back in 1987.She is a fantastic ambassador and has inspired many families and clinicians to strive forward in paediatric transplantation.”

Freeman Hospital paediatric figures over the last 30 years- 308 transplants; 225 are alive; 11 on waiting list (5 urgently listed)

UK paediatric figures in the last year10 children died waiting for a heart transplant; 46 children received heart transplants; 36 children waiting for a heart transplant; 55 children died and donated their organs.

Lynne Holt, the Transplant Coordinator involved in Kaylee’s transplant comments: “30 years is an amazing achievement and it is a privilege to have been part of the pioneering team. I am constantly in awe of the courage of our patients and families, and especially the donor family who consented to donating their baby’s heart which saved Kaylee’s life. Ultimately, the success of the Freeman Hospital Transplant Programme would not be possible without the generosity of the donors and their families. We would encourage all to consider signing on to the NHS Organ Donor Register and to discuss their wishes with their families”

Chris Thomas, President of the World Transplant Games Federation, who is here on an inspection visit for the World Transplant Games NewcastleGateshead 2019 and will join the Walk for Life, says: “Kaylee’s story is just one of the thousands of inspirational stories of human achievement over adversity that embodies and underpins the values of the World Transplant Games Federation. I’m delighted to be in her home city to celebrate 30 years since her ground-breaking surgery at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital”

Rt Hon Nick Brown MP, Newcastle upon Tyne East, who will meet the walkers at the Copthorne Hotel on Saturday says: “I want to pass on my very best wishes to Kaylee on 30 years since she became the UK’s first successful heart transplant baby at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. We are very proud of the world-renowned Children’s Heart Unit in Newcastle and the wider region. There are currently over 6,000 people on the organ donor waiting list across the UK. I support calls for a change to an opt-out system for organ donation”

Note to editors
For further information or to interview the transplant children, and those who are now adults, please contact Lynne Holt 07900014344. There will be a photo call with Kaylee and the transplant children and heart families at 11.30am on Saturday 14th October 2017 at Baltic Square, Gateshead.

Transplant Sport
Transplant Sport is the charity which organises sports and social events for transplant recipients to demonstrate the benefits of organ donation and prove that you can lead a normal and active life again after transplantation. It actively promotes public awareness of the need for more people to sign on the NHS Organ Donor Register, as well as the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register, and discuss their wishes now with their families. Transplant Sport host the British Transplant Games every year and participants of all ages and ability enjoy taking part in over 20 different events. All have received a lifesaving transplant and celebrate their gift of life together. The transplant athletes also compete at the World Transplant Games which runs every two years. For more information visit Transplant Sport or contact Lynne Holt 07900014344

The World Transplant Games NewcastleGateshead will take place from 17-24 August 2019. For more information on the World Transplant Games NewcastleGateshead 2019 visit

CHUF is the charity dedicated to supporting children and their families with heart conditions and transplants. CHUF’s mission is achieved by supporting the Children’s Heart Unit at Freeman Hospital and their patients by raising vital funds for large and small pieces of equipment, facilities, aftercare, salaries and research. The Heart Unit treats over four thousand patients each year from all over the UK. It is one of only two children’s heart transplant units and is the only unit capable of providing all the services that might be necessary, from diagnosis to closing holes in the heart or heart transplantation – regardless of whether it is an unborn baby, a child or an adult who was born with heart disease.

NHS Organ Donor Register -Transplant patients owe their lives to the generosity of others, who donate the ‘Gift of Life’. Please help to raise public awareness about transplantation and sign up on the Organ Donor register. To register, and for more information please go to, or contact the NHS Organ Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23

To join the Anthony Nolan bone marrow donor register or for further information go to

Freeman Hospital Heart/Lung Transplant Programme 1985 – 2017

  • 1985 Cardiac transplantation programme begins at the Freeman Hospital
  • 1987 – First successful heart transplant for a baby in Europe at the Freeman Hospital (+longest surviving)
  • 1987 – First successful single lung transplant in Europe at the Freeman Hospital
  • 1990 – First successful double lung transplant in Europe at the Freeman Hospital
  • 1991 – Paediatric pulmonary transplantation programme commences at the Freeman Hospital
  • 2002 –First non-heart beating lung transplant in the UK performed at the Freeman Hospital
  • 2011 – The Freeman Hospital celebrates their 200th pediatric heart transplant
  • 2011 – UK’s first ever dedicated Institute of Transplantation (IOT)opens its doors at the Freeman Hospital
  • 2013 – The UK’s first successful bilateral upper lobe lung transplant is performed at the Freeman Hospital on a 13-year-old boy with Cystic Fibrosis.
  • 2014 –The Freeman Hospital performs a Berlin Heart operation on the world’s youngest patient
  • September 2014 – The Freeman Hospital celebrates 100 adult congenital heart transplants with a balloon release.
  • September 2014 – Leading heart and lung surgeons at the Freeman Hospital showcased their life-saving transplant techniques and hosted the International Teaching Course for Heart and Lung Transplantation for 20 surgeons from around the world.
  • November 2014 – Kaylee Davidson- Olley lights the flame to launch the Westfield Health British Transplant Games 2015 in NewcastleGateshead.
  • May 2015 – 30th Anniversary of the Freeman Hospital Heart Transplant Programme –celebrated by a Luncheon hosted by the FHLTA.
  • July / August 2015 – The Westfield Health British Transplant Games take place in NewcastleGateshead.
  • June 2017 – 30th Anniversary of the Freeman Hospital Lung Transplant Programme
  • October 2017 – 30th Anniversary of the Freeman Hospital Paediatric Heart/Lung Transplant Programme