A man who experienced the “terror” of waiting for a new heart has backed a leading charity’s call for a change in organ donation law ahead of a crucial vote at Holyrood today.
Ross Fisher was diagnosed with the inherited heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy aged just 21 four years ago.
The 25-year-old spent over a year on the routine list for a heart transplant and was ready to rush through to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank at a moment’s notice if the call came through, that a suitable donor had been found.
Mr Fisher, from Dundee, said his condition is now responding well to medication but he will need a heart transplant in the future.
He is supporting the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, who are calling on MSPs to back the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill which proposes changing the law in Scotland to introduce an opt-out system.
This would mean everyone would be automatically considered to be an organ donor unless they opt-out.
Mr Fisher said: “I’ve got personal experience of waiting on a heart transplant – I was absolutely terrified.
“Every time your phone rang you thought that could be the call.
“I was just petrified that would be it and I’d have to immediately pack my bags and head to the hospital.
“I was on the routine list for a transplant, so I was able to wait at home and live a relatively normal life.
“I never got a call to say there was a potential donor – but every time I got a call, I did think ‘this might be it’ and it was really scary.”
He added: “When you get told you need a transplant, you try and mentally prepare yourself for it.
“But there’s nothing that can prepare you for it and it will happen one day.
“It’s just a matter of time and it will hopefully happen in many years to come and I keep my heart as long as possible.”
Mr Fisher would have travelled to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, the only transplant centre in Scotland.
He described the vote as “huge” and said it could change the lives of those waiting for organ transplant.
He said; “I’m 6ft 5in and I’m quite hefty – there’s not many guys my size anyway, never mind being donors. So, the opt-out system will dramatically increase my chances of receiving a heart in the future and give me and many others a better quality of life. We all come in different shapes and sizes.
“It’s giving the gift of life – it’s increases the pool of hearts available [for transplant], and it increases the pool of all organs. It’s increased the percentage of lives saved in England and Wales – hopefully it does the same in Scotland.”
At present there are more than 500 people in Scotland currently waiting for the operation that could save their lives. Within the UK, Scotland has the highest proportion of people on the organ donor register but has the lowest rate of family consent and also the lowest rate of organ donation.
James Cant, BHF Scotland director, said: “We hope inspiring stories [like Ross’s] will motivate more people to have that important conversation about organ donation with their loved ones, and encourage MSPs of all parties to back the bill to help save more lives on 26 February.”