Earlier this week two ten year old boys, both of whom are living life to the full thanks to receiving heart valve transplants, launched this year’s Organ Donation Week.
Alex Crichton (left) from Westhill in Aberdeen, and Jack Tennick (right) from East Kilbride, helped highlight how organ and tissue donation transforms and saves lives.
Alex was born with a congenital heart defect, which required open heart surgery to insert a donor valve when he was two weeks old, and then again aged 18 months after the first heart valve became less effective and needed replacing.
Jack was born with aortic valve stenosis, a congenital heart defect which meant he had to undergo two major heart operations by the time he was seven. The first procedure was to repair the valve, and the second at 6 years old, involved receiving a donor valve.
Make your decision known
During Organ Donation Week the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS), Organ Donation Scotland and the Scottish Government have been encouraging people across Scotland to think about their organ and tissue donation decision and make it known.
Dr Sharon Zahra, Tissues, Cells and Advanced Therapeutics Consultant & Clinical Lead, SNBTS said:
“Tissue and organ donations are essential to many operations that are routinely available for NHS patients in Scotland; however none of these operations would be possible without the very generous donation made by donors at the time of their death. We thank all donors and their loved ones for allowing donation to go ahead so that other patients’ lives may be saved or greatly improved.”
From Autumn 2020, the law around organ and tissue donation is changing in Scotland, meaning that if people have not confirmed whether they want to be an organ and/or tissue donor, it may be assumed they’re willing to donate when they die.
People have a choice, and they can record their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register at any time.
Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said it’s vital people share their decision with their family:
“Meeting Alex and his mum Julie demonstrated how an organ or tissue donor can transform a life.
“The law on donation is changing in Scotland to save and improve many more lives, adding to the package of measures already in place which have led to significant increases in donation and transplantation rates in Scotland over the last decade.
“This Organ Donation Week, we’re asking people to think about their organ and tissue donation decision, record this on the NHS Organ Donor Register and importantly share it. Having that conversation with family is vital, so they can ensure the decision is honoured should something happen.”
We'll always be grateful
Alex’s mother Julie Crichton described her son as: “Always with a smile on his face. He’s happy, challenging, determined and cheeky, he’s just my Alex.
“The people who have made the selfless decision to donate have quite simply allowed Alex to live. I remember the surgeon being quite matter of fact with me initially saying that Alex needed a human valve and that would need to come from a child donor. It’s just very humbling that someone has said goodbye to their child, and made a decision that has allowed me to keep my son.
“It’s upsetting to think of the donor, what age they were, how their parents are doing, but we try not to dwell on it and focus on what it has done for Alex. It’s all about making memories, and thanks to that donor, he has a fantastic life. We will always be grateful.
“There are so many people who are in need. I know about another 20 kids like Alex, so the more people willing to donate, and have that discussion, the better.”
Jack’s mum Claire Tennick spoke about her son’s donor:
“It must be such a terrible terrible time to go through as a family. For them to think of how they can help other families at a time like that, it’s hard to get your head round. You’d like to think that if you were in that position, you’d do the exact same thing.
“I’m just so grateful that they had that difficult conversation, as it’s given Jack so much. He can go to school, go out to play with his friends. He’s football daft and goes to all the games with his grandpa and uncle.
“I think the move to an opt out system is a great thing. I think it’s a pretty strong statement to say I don’t want to be an organ donor, but understand everyone has their own reasons, and some people don’t even like thinking about it as they feel like it’s tempting fate.
“I hope all the awareness around the new law will make people think about their decision and have that conversation because it’s so important. We’ll be eternally grateful.”
Find out more
There are over 550 people in Scotland currently waiting on a transplant. One donor can transform the lives of up to nine people.
- More information about the opt out system of organ and tissue donation can be found at www.organdonationscotland.org