Four children from Northern Ireland are currently waiting for heart transplants and more families need to sign the organ donation register. That was the message today from the Children’s Heartbeat Trust as they mark the start of Organ Donation Week.

The annual Organ Donation Week aims to raise awareness and educate on the issues around organ donation, and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust have highlighted the need for more children to be included on the list.

Today in Northern Ireland there are currently four children on the waiting list for heart transplants. A heart transplant is a very specialised procedure and the size of the donor heart must be of a similar size to the recipient. Unfortunately children on the urgent list for heart transplants will face longer waits for a suitable match – on average two and a half times as long as adults and with the overall number of heart transplants dropping by 8% from 2017/18 the wait could get even longer for these critically ill children.

Organ donation is a significant issue in Northern Ireland with only 42% of the population on the Organ Donation Register. Last year in Northern Ireland nine people died while waiting for an organ transplant.

Sarah Quinlan, Chief Executive of the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, said:

“Right now four local children are on the heart transplant list waiting for new hearts. That’s four families who, every day, await a phone call that will help their child. Heart transplants for children are particularly difficult, due to the fact that the size of the heart has to match – but the number of children on the organ donation register is not increasing, which reduces the opportunities for many children to benefit from the life-saving gift of organ donation.

“Organ donation is a difficult subject, but it is particularly difficult when it is for a child, and the number of organs donated from young people which are suitable for children are considerably lower than for adults. It is important that families talk openly about this issue, and consider signing the Organ Donation Register. While nobody wants to countenance the circumstances where their inclusion on the list will make a difference to another family, the fact is that by signing the register you may potentially be helping a very sick child. We would urge all families to talk about the issue and to sign the Register. This is the week to talk and sign.”

More information on the Organ Donation Register can be found at www.organdonationni.info

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