Boy saved by heart valve transplant thanks to child donor
Ten-year-old Alex Crichton is now urging families to discuss organ donation.
By Ben Philip
A ten-year-old boy is urging families to discuss organ donation after a heart valve transplant saved his life when he was just two weeks old.
Alex Crichton, from Westhill, Aberdeen, has joined the public health minister to launch this year's Organ Donation Week to highlight how the decision can transform and save lives.
The campaign comes as the law around donations is changing in Scotland, meaning that if people have not confirmed whether they want to be an organ donor, it may be assumed they're willing to donate when they die.
Choi Kwang-Do fan Alex was born with a congenital heart defect, which required open heart surgery to insert a donor valve when he was just two weeks old.
His mum Julie, had just registered his birth the day he went through the seven-hour procedure in Glasgow.
Luckily Alex fought his way back to health, however, just 18 months later, tests showed the heart valve had calcified, meaning he would need another transplant operation.
Things moved quickly, with Alex's transplant surgery going ahead in December 2010 but when he was removed from the ventilator, he suffered a number of seizures which caused damage to his brain function.
Julie said: "Initially the prognosis was quite bleak, we didn't know how Alex would be.
"We were told he was being kept comfortable, and that if he survived the weekend, we would take things from there.
"From there his recovery was rapid.
"He did really well down in Glasgow and the plan was to get him home around Christmas, closer to my mum and my eldest.
"He was transferred to Aberdeen Children's Hospital where we spent a week, before the community team took over at home.
"By this stage, he hated hospitals, he would cry every time he clocked someone in a uniform, but the care he received was second to none."
Alex may require future surgeries as he continues to grow, but since the procedure in 2010, he's required no further cardiac treatment.
'The people who have made the selfless decision to donate have quite simply allowed Alex to live.'Alex's mum, Julie Crichton
Julie added: "We have Alex, as well as he can be, 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."
'Having that conversation with family is vital, so they can ensure the decision is honoured should something happen.'Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick
Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said Alex's story shows how vital it is for people to discuss organ donation with family.
He said: "Meeting Alex and his mum Julie today demonstrates 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."