Press release issued: 25 February 2013
The plight of student Will Pope, who is recovering after a long-awaited heart transplant, has inspired fellow students at the University of Bristol to organise a fundraising concert in his honour – with comedian Rory McGrath making an appearance to pledge his support.
A virus left Will, now 20, desperately ill and he spent an agonising four months on the ‘urgent list’ waiting for a suitable donor to be found.
The breakthrough came on New Year’s Eve and, after undergoing an anxious 12 hour operation to save his life, Will is on the long road to recovery much to the relief of his friends and family.
His story played a major part in ITV’s recent From the Heart campaign to raise awareness of organ donation, prompting an unprecedented 147,000 people to sign-up to the NHS Organ Donation Register.
Now fellow students at the University of Bristol want to play their part through organising a gig to celebrate his recovery and raise money for Harefield Hospital – a renowned cardiothoracic and transplant centre in Middlesex – which has treated him.
Will’s dad Phil, a composer and actor, will perform alongside his good friend Rory McGrath, who is famous for his starring appearances in They Think It's All Over and Three Men in a Boat. The pair have been friends for many years and will showcase some of the comedic songs they’ve written together.
The #WillPower Charity Gig takes place at Clifton Hill House on Friday, 15 March at 7pm. It will be a night of music, comedy and fundraising, plus there will be an opportunity to sign-up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Will’s cousin Meg Pope, who lives in Bristol, is helping to organise the gig with Will’s friends and said: “The #WillPower campaign started on Twitter just before Christmas and it has gained the support of over 2,200 people. This got me thinking about how many people here in Bristol are backing Will, so I thought why not host an event to not only raise awareness and encourage people to sign the Organ Donor Register, but to celebrate Will’s recovery and show him just how many people have been rooting for him.
“The line-up is made up entirely of people who know Will, or are connected to him, and everyone from the musicians to the team at Clifton Hill House, who have so kindly let us use their event space, are really excited about being a part of it.”
In 2009, Will was 16 when his art teacher sent him to see the school nurse because he looked so poorly.
He was immediately taken to A&E before being urgently transferred to Harefield Hospital where it was established a virus had attacked his heart.
Will was so ill surgeons that had to wait two days before he was stable enough to operate and install a heart pump.
After recovering, Will completed his A-levels and started at the University of Bristol, where he studies Classical Civilisation, in September 2011.
At the end of his first year Will undertook the London to Mongolia Rally but on his return immediately fell ill again. He was placed on the list of people in need of an urgent heart transplant and the agonising wait for a suitable match began while he was kept alive in hospital.
Luckily, a donor heart was found just in time for Will, and it was transplanted during a 12-hour operation on New Year’s Eve.
The lifesaving surgery was a success but, just five days after getting his new heart, Will suffered a cardiac arrest.
He was kept alive by an external pump that took over the role of his heart and kept the blood flowing around his body.
He was also fitted with a tracheostomy and could only communicate by blinking.
Amazingly, he recovered from this major set-back and at the end of January was well enough to be transferred from intensive care to a high-dependency ward at Hatfield.
Megan added: “Will’s making amazing progress all the time and, although it may seem like tiny steps to most of us, things like having his hair washed and having his first proper meal in months - meatballs and mash, followed by apple sponge and custard - have been huge milestones in his recovery.
“His mum Rosie has shown him the line-up for the gig and he’s said it sounds like a really great event. UBTV, the University’s television station, is also going to come and film the event so it’s really exciting that he’ll actually be able to watch it, even if he can’t be there in person.”
All proceeds from the event will go to Will’s Fund, which is a collection set up by his mum Rosie to raise money for the team at Harefield Hospital who helped to make Will’s transplant possible. Rosie is currently in talks with the surgeon who carried out Will’s transplant to decide how the money raised would be best spent, as his family are keen for it to directly benefit future transplant patients.
Tickets can be bought for #WillPower Charity Gig online and cost £5 each.
Currently, one in five people awaiting heart transplants die due to the shortage of organ donors in the UK. To sign up to the Organ Donor Register, and to help people like Will, log onto www.organdonation.nhs.uk.
Twitter - please followor #WillPower
For more information about Will and his progress, please see willpope.co.uk
University of Bristol,
Bristol, BS8 1TH, UK
Tel: +44 (0)117 928 9000