A FAMILY whose lives were almost devastated because of long waits for a donated heart have backed a change in the donor system to increase access to organs.
Harry Prentice, 19, nearly died after falling seriously ill with advanced heart failure.
At the start of National Transplant Week the family backed medical organisations, including the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in calls for Scotland to introduce an opt-out system for donors, with everyone presumed to consent unless they have expressed their opposition.
Mr Prentice, from Braehead, near Lanark, was a fit and healthy 16-year-old before he became unwell and was taken to the doctor’s by his mother, Yvonne.
She said her son had carried a genetic defect which caused his heart problems which his body had compensated for until he finally started to deteriorate.
“For a few years before we just thought he was being lazy, but it was actually because his body was so tired and it could not cope,” Mrs Prentice told The Scotsman.
“His heart was more than double the size it should have been.”
The teenager was placed on the emergency transplant list.
But after six weeks with no organ forthcoming, Mr Prentice had a left ventricular assist device – an artificial heart pump – fitted because otherwise he would have died. The device allowed him to continue with life for two years until further complications developed and he was once again placed on the emergency transplant list last year. Six days later a heart became available, but after surgery the heart failed to start.
“They said they would give the heart 48 hours on life support and there was a 50 per cent chance it would start beating,” Mrs Prentice said.
“We were left watching this time window and were told to get the family in.”
Eventually the heart started to beat. Unfortunately, when Harry came off life-support doctors found that he had suffered a severe stroke, leading to rehabilitation which is still ongoing.
Mrs Prentice said her son’s heart was working “100 per cent”. He is hoping to start an engineering course later this year.
On the subject of donors she added: “It would take the onus off the family to say if they want to donate the organs. I don’t think it would put people off donating.”
Mr Prentice said: “We’d like more people to sign up to be donors but then also changing the system would also increase the organs to transplant.”
Glasgow MSP Anne McTaggart has just launched a consultation on her proposed Organ and Tissue Donation (Scotland) Bill which, if successful, would change the current opt-in system to one of presumed consent,
Marjory Burns, director of BHF Scotland, said: “There are currently around 7,000 people in the UK waiting for an organ transplant.
“Every day, lives are lost because there are simply not enough donor organs available.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has said it wishes to wait to see an evaluation of the impact of opt-out on organ donation on Wales before deciding whether or not to make a similar change in Scotland.
“This is because there is no consensus among experts as to whether opt out will make a significant difference, and the international evidence is not clear.”