Northern Ireland news

Co Down father urges people to sign organ donor register as son awaits life-saving heart transplant

Damien and Riona Grant from Kilcoo with baby Ollie

The father of a seven-month-old boy who has spent more than half his life in hospital is urging people to sign the organ donor register as his son awaits a heart transplant.

Damien Grant from Kilcoo, Co Down, said his family are “just living day by day” in the hope that Ollie will receive a new heart.

Ollie has been in Birmingham Children’s Hospital for four months after being diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome during a routine 20-week scan of his mother Riona.

Since his birth on October 1 he has undergone two heart operations and suffered a stroke. His heart only works at 37 per cent.

Mr Grant said he and his wife, who also have a 23-month-old daughter, Aria, have been through a rollercoaster of emotions.

“The last few months have been surreal,” he said.

“It’s not how we imagined it would be. Since finding out at the 20-week scan that something wasn’t right with Ollie’s heart, it’s been appointment after appointment and numerous scans.

“He was transferred to Birmingham at two days old and had surgery at just six days old.”

Around 40 children in the UK are waiting for a new heart but a low number of children’s organs being donated means the Grant family do not know how long they will wait.

“We’ve been told simply there’s not enough hearts available and they have to prioritise the ones they have to the sickest but most likely to be successful recipients,” Mr Grant said.

“We just hope one day we get word Ollie will get a heart transplant. We know it might not be the right answer but we have to try.

“To look at him he’s all smiles, but underneath he has a fatal heart condition that without a drug infusion that runs straight to his heart he may die.

“Organ donation is so important, yet so many people don’t talk about it with their loved ones.

“I hope this raises awareness of the need for people to sign up and make their loved ones aware of their wishes – have that conversation.

“If your family don’t know your wishes, they may say no to a transplant. Please talk about it and let them know. It may be a gift of life to another family.”

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