A MOTHER has undergone a double lung and heart transplant — the first in the north west for 15 years.

Pauline Ginn, of Deane, was in theatre for eight hours while the surgeon carried out the rare operation, inserting her new heart and lungs as a "package" — from the same donor and already connected.

Mrs Ginn, aged 54, who has suffered from serious health problems with her lungs and had a hole in her heart, was admitted to hospital in April and spent seven weeks in intensive care after the operation.

Double lung and heart transplants are only performed on average six times in the UK each year, but pioneering consultant cardiac surgeon Rajamiyer Venkateswaran, who carried out the operation at Wythenshawe Hospital, hopes it will now become more prevalent and save more lives across the region.

Mrs Ginn's husband Terry, and children Emma, aged 28, and 16-year-old Adam, were at her side in hospital throughout the procedure, and she is now recuperating at home after being discharged last week.

She frequently found herself out of breath as a child, and, until she went for a check up at the age of 23, thought it was normal.

But doctors found she had been born with a hole in her heart, and she underwent open heart surgery.

Because of this, her arteries had been compensating for the hole in her heart, and she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.

This makes the heart less efficient at pumping blood around the body, causing high blood pressure inside blood vessels of the lungs which can damage both the lungs and the heart.

She has been attending appointments for the condition at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield for more than a decade after being referred to the hospital's specialist unit, but her health problems escalated in January when she contracted a chest infection.

Mrs Ginn, who was put on the organ register in January, had two pints of fluid removed from her body, and her weight dropped to six stones.

Following three months in hospital in Sheffield, she received a call a week after coming home saying there was a donor, making the lifesaving operation possible.

Mrs Ginn, of Winterfield Drive, said: "I don't think I would be here now without this operation, my lungs were that bad."

The last few months have been very stressful for the family, as Adam, a student at Ladybridge High School, has just completed his GCSE examinations.

Mrs Ginn, who previously worked at MFI in Burnden Park for 25 years and as a receptionist at the Royal Bolton Hospital for 18 months, added: "I was concerned because I was away for a very important time for Adam, but he has a good head on his shoulders.

"They have been worried and concerned, obviously, but I had to take the opportunity to have this operation."

Mr Venkateswaran is one of a handful of medical professionals in the UK who can carry out the complex operation.

He observed five of the operations being carried out at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, the country's main heart and lung transplant centre.

Mr Venkateswaran said: "Pauline was very sick before the operation, but she is certainly going in the right direction now.

"We are really delighted for Pauline that it has been successful, and I am very proud of the team for completing the operation.

"I would also like to thank Pauline for being so brave, to undergo an operation that hasn't been done for 15 years is not easy."

Mr Venkateswaran explained that the procedure had become rare because the waiting lists for hearts and lungs had become separated, and that there were discussions about whether it would ever be conducted again because of poor results.

But he now hopes to be able to carry out the operation on more people, with technological advancements making the process easier and providing better results.

He added: "Taking the heart and lungs out safely is the most difficult bit of the operation, particularly because there are a number of very important nerves in that area, but putting in the new heart and lungs is easier.

"Now we have done one hopefully we can do this for more people in the north west."