Heart transplant survivor strips off to boost organ donors

Gordon Hutchison had a heart transplant when he was a teenager. Picture: Rob McDougall

Gordon Hutchison had a heart transplant when he was a teenager. Picture: Rob McDougall

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A man whose life was saved by a heart transplant operation has stripped off for a “brilliant” new campaign that aims to boost the number of Scots on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Gordon Hutchison, 26, from East Kilbride, had the surgery when he was just 13, after being born with congenital heart defect.

The scar from the surgery is clearly visible as he urges more people to consider becoming an organ donor.

He said: “An organ donor saved my life. That’s why I’m backing the call to get everybody in Scotland on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

“Stripping for a TV advert was certainly not an average day at the office, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I genuinely would do almost anything to make people realise how life-changing organ donation is.”

There are some 540 people in Scotland waiting on a transplant, and while 43 per cent of Scots are on the NHS Organ Donor Register, the campaign stresses more lives could be saved if more people signed up, as organs are suitable for donation after less than 1 per cent of deaths.

The advert features naked models of all shapes and sizes as it puts across its message that everybody can be an organ donor.

Mr Hutchison said taking part in the campaign marks “probably my fifteen minutes of fame up”, but added: “I couldn’t think of a better way to use them.

“Because of my donor, I was able to grow into a teenager, play football, pass my driving test, get my first job and marry my wife Catriona. Things I’m grateful for every day.

“I think the campaign is brilliant and will certainly raise eyebrows. If you support organ donation and haven’t yet joined the Register, please do it now. I promise it’ll be a lot easier than taking your kit off.”

Mr Hutchison first underwent surgery as an 11-month-old baby, when a pig skin valve was inserted into his heart to help it keep pumping.

After suffering heart failure at the age of 13 he was put on the transplant waiting list, and received a call after just six weeks to say an organ was available. An air ambulance flew him to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, where surgeons carried out the 12-hour long procedure.

He said: “The life I lived before the heart transplant compared to my life now is night and day. Previously I couldn’t walk 10 yards, now I can run 10 miles.

“Growing up I was very small for my age and prone to infections. I couldn’t play football or do a lot of things other kids could.

“My illness and hospital visits used to control every part of our life as a family, and my new heart gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. After the transplant, being back at school with my mates and able to live life to the full was just amazing.”

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “The reality is that there are more people waiting for an organ transplant than there are suitable donors. Last year in Scotland, 35 people died waiting on a vital organ transplant, and for the 540 people currently listed for transplant, the wait goes on.

“There are many reasons people haven’t joined the Register, such as thinking they’re too old, no-one would want their organs, or they’ve simply not got round to it.

“This campaign is about driving home that everyone has it in them to save a life - like Gordon’s. Those registrations remain vital in our bid to increase transplant rates in Scotland.

“If you’ve made the decision that you want to donate your organs and haven’t yet joined the Register, I’d urge you to do it now. It only takes two minutes and could be the most important thing you do today.”

READ MORE - Huge number of Scots sign up to be organ donors

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