Northern Ireland

Parents' plea for donors as baby waits for heart transplant

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionOllie's parents appeal for organ donations

The family of a County Down baby waiting for a heart transplant are asking parents to consider registering their children as organ donors.

Seven-month-old Ollie Grant has spent most of his life in hospital after being diagnosed with a heart condition.

His mother Riona Grant said they will do "everything we can to get him a new heart and a new life".

Some 181 children in the UK are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and 42 are waiting for a new heart.

NHS Blood and Transplant said 17 children died in 2017/18 while waiting for an organ donor.

Ollie's father Damien said thinking about registering a child was something many parents would not think about.

"But from the point of view of a child needing a transplant, maybe people would consider it," he added.

While not wishing such a tragedy on any family, Riona said she never thought they would be in this position.

"No one ever does, but we have to do everything we can for Ollie because he's just a baby and we have to speak for him," she added.

Image caption Paediatric surgeon Tim Jones said more needs to be done to increase availability of organs

About 57 donors were found last year leading to 200 transplant operations.

Tim Jones, a consultant paediatric surgeon at Birmingham Children's Hospital who has been treating Ollie, said more had to be done to increase the availability of organs.

"The biggest problem we have is that there are far fewer children donating organs," he explained.

"If we had more, then children like Ollie would have a better chance.

"The problem is we are asking families to do that at a time of great tragedy so we would appeal to people to have the conversation now.

"For most people it will never be an issue, but it would make a difference."

Ollie has already had two heart operations and suffered a stroke but his family said he has fought back.

"We have been on that tightrope so many times," said Mr Grant.

"He is a happy and smiling baby and such a character, but we know that it could go the other way.

"That's always in the back of your mind and it means you can never settle," he said.

'Rollercoaster'

Mrs Grant said the condition was diagnosed at her 20-week scan and they have been in shock since, experiencing the highs and lows of looking after a sick baby.

"It's the rollercoaster but the staff at the hospital and our families have been brilliant.

"It's Ollie who keeps us going," she explained.

You can find out more information about organ donation on 0300 123 23 23 or at nidirect.gov.uk.

See more of Ollie's story on BBC Newsline on BBC One NI at 18:30 BST on 16 May.

More on this story