Northern Ireland news

Co Down youngster (4) who died following heart battle remembered as `very loving little boy'

Mouners gathered in Newcastle in Co Down yesterday for the funeral of four-year-old Ollie Grant who died while waiting for a heart transplant. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

A FOUR-year-old child from Co Down who died following a battle against a rare heart condition was yesterday remembered as a "very loving little boy".

Ollie Grant, who lived in Kilcoo, passed away on January 13 while being cared for at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which affects normal blood flow through the heart, Ollie had undergone numerous operations and treatments.

His battle prompted Riona and Damien Grant to launch a campaign encouraging more people to register as organ donors.

Ollie, who was on the transplant waiting list, had undergone his latest surgery just before Christmas however he deteriorated earlier this month and died in the arms of his parents.

His death came just days before the leaders of Northern Ireland's five main political parties jointly wrote to Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris calling for a legislative intervention to get a soft opt-out organ donation process, approved by the assembly last year, up and running.

The legislation, which is known as Dáithí's Law, is named after Dáithí MacGabhann, a six-year-old from Belfast, who is on the organ transplant waiting list and whose family have campaigned for the new law. The law would change the process in Northern Ireland to an opt-out system meaning people would automatically become organ donors unless they specifically state otherwise. However, as the assembly is not functioning, it can not come into effect.

Speaking to UTV, Riona Grant said if the legislation had been in place "things might be different".

"You just pray and hope that you're not going to be in this situation and that a heart would have become available," she said.

"The road to get here has been very difficult but it's also been the best four years of our lives. He's just amazing and we are really going to miss him".

Ollie's father, Damien said: "Children are still dying every day because people can't get together and make decisions."

A Mass of the Angels for Ollie took place yesterday at The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Newcastle.

Fr Jim Crudden said Ollie had "fought the good fight and on different occasions, when he seemed to be very ill, he made that recovery again and had that great will to live. He kept going as long as he could with his short life. We can take comfort that Ollie is now with God. He gave a lot of love and received a lot of love during his four years and you have many happy memories of a very loving, little boy, of his warm smile and his happiness.

"He reached so many milestones that seemed impossible when he was born."

Fr Crudden thanked all the medical staff who had cared for Ollie and also his parents and others who had worked to encourage people to "sign up" to be an organ donor.

Ollie was laid to rest in St Patrick's Cemetery, Bryansford.

Northern Ireland news