CHARLES GRAHAM - Salute to ‘unknown heroes’ gifting life

The front page of our sister paper the Wigan Observer this week offers up a most uplifting and dramatic story.

Isabella Stockton-Beesley was at death’s door when she suffered catastrophic liver failure. Family and doctors feared the worst as she was looked after by a team of specialists at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

But a suitable liver for a transplant became available at a point when - her family was only told later - Isabella might only have had hours to live.

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And, miracle of miracles, the 18-month-old is now back at home recovering after receiving a new organ following months of intensive care.

What it means is that the Stockton-Beesley family can now prepare for a Christmas together that for months looked so unlikely.

The family are under no illusion that many months of recuperation lie ahead.

But they know their daughter has been given a second chance and are now, to little surprise, singing the praises of the organ donor register from the rooftops.

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They aren’t sudden converts, mind you: dad Dean has been on the list for a decade, theorising he would have no need for his organs if unfortunate enough to die, and it would be nice to think that they could be put to good use by someone else; but not thinking anymore deeply about it than that.

Now he and Sarah really do appreciate the full value of that simple gesture and call the person whose liver was harvested for Isabella an “unknown hero.”

I echo that. And a change to English law whereby everyone is automatically on the register and has to opt out (rather than the current system in which the opposite prevails) will have been long overdue when it goes live this spring. There are so many people dying because compatible organs cannot be found in time.

It should also be pointed out that last year 1,064 families refused to allow their late relatives’ organs to be donated, meaning around 2,500 potential transplants were missed, a NHS Blood and Transplant report found in September. How many lives that cost was not reported.

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The point of the article which spotlit that report was to urge people to have a conversation with relatives about their donor wishes. That way there are fewer people blocking surgery because they are unsure what the deceased wanted: something that can still happen after the opt-out changes.

The maths is simple: the more organs there are available, the more lives will be saved.