'My son was sent home to die. Thanks to an organ donor, he's still here today'

A woman whose son was given a life-saving organ transplant as a child has welcomed the change to an “opt out” donation system in Scotland from Friday.

Aaron, now 24, and aged one before he had the transplant.

Aaron Gray, 24, received a life-saving liver and small bowel transplant when he was three.

He was born with a congenital heart disorder, and had heart surgery for the first time when he was just six days old. He then had an infection which destroyed three quarters of his small intestine, and spent the first months of his life in hospital.

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But after a transplant assessment at eight weeks old, doctors concluded that he was not strong enough to survive an operation.

One-year-old Aaron at the Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital.

“He was pretty much sent home to die at that point,” said Mr Gray’s mother, Catriona Hamilton.

But the home environment suited her young son, and his liver recovered a little, though he was still jaundiced and unable to properly eat.

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Eventually at three years old Aaron had improved enough to endure the surgery, and was put on the transplant list. After four months a donor was found.

Aaron a week after his transplant at Birmingham children's hospital.

“We were very, very fortunate - you hear dreadful stories of people having to wait years,” said Ms Hamilton.

"We knew it would have to be a child donor, and you just think, somebody’s kid is going to have to die so your kid will be able to survive. It was a really, really tough time.”

At the time the kind of treatment which Aaron received was pioneering – he was only the 16th child to have it – and the family had to travel from the Sick Kids in Edinburgh to Birmingham children’s hospital.

After the transplant Aaron made a quick recovery, and his parents were overjoyed to finally see his skin and eyes lose their yellow tinge and for him to begin eating properly.

Aaron Gray with his mother, Catriona.

Ms Hamilton still thinks of the 10-year-old boy who donated his organs to Aaron.

“It was such a mixed emotion, and it still is, every anniversary, because of the mother who lost her son,” she said.

Aaron has since lived a healthy life, studied sport and exercise at college and is now a painter and decorator.

He feels “very fortunate”, he said, and added that the organ donation law change is a “massive step”.

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