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Three decades of heart transplants: Tain man was Scotland’s first donor

The first heart transplant in Scotland took place almost 30 years ago.
The first heart transplant in Scotland took place almost 30 years ago.

Scotland’s first heart transplant unit opened 30 years ago today – with its maiden procedure involving a panel beater from Tain and a dramatic dash to Aberdeen.

In the decades since, more than 440 people have been given a second chance at life by transplant doctors at the base in Glasgow.

Their first operation took place on January 2, 1992, saving the life of retired postman Charlie Carlyon.

The P&J reported the following morning that, after a six-hour procedure at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the 55-year-old church elder was recovering well, and had already been “tucking into a plate of porridge”.

‘I am so grateful’

It was later revealed that Tain dad-of-two Peter Polson had been the organ donor.

The 31-year-old collapsed at home from a brain tumour on New Year’s Day, and was rushed to Raigmore Hospital.

Senior charge nurse/ theatre co-ordinator Hazel Colquhoun, pictured during a transplant surgery.
Senior charge nurse/ theatre co-ordinator Hazel Colquhoun, pictured during a transplant surgery.

He was then transferred to ARI, where he was met by medics who had travelled over from Glasgow in a “dramatic air dash” to start the selfless donation process.

After, Mr Carlyon’s wife Margaret told the P&J: “I would like to express great thanks to the donor family.

“Everybody seems to have forgotten them because they are not getting the publicity, but I am so grateful for the life they have given my husband.”

Memories of Scotland’s first heart transplant

Theatre co-ordinator Hazel Colquhorn led the first Scottish team down to a specialist hospital in Uxbridge so they could learn how to retrieve organs for transplantation.

“I always liked doing things that were unpredictable,” she said.

“I remember the first transplant when it was done as our team went out through the night and I actually still have our off-duty book for that case.

“It’s a special thing. When I first did retrieval you wouldn’t know anything at all about the person whose organ you are retrieving.

“That’s all changed and you know the circumstances now, which I think makes the process much better.”

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