Northern Ireland

One child's wait for a heart transplant in NI

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Media captionValerie and Aimee Brady in hospital

Imagine being 10 years old and waiting for a heart transplant.

Aimee Brady knows exactly what it is like - she has been in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children waiting for a new heart since January.

The family from Magherafelt have called on the public to open up a discussion around organ transplant donation.

Aimee says she loves the nurses but desperately wants to go home to be with her 14-year-old brother.

"Being stuck in here it's just you have no life, just sitting here every day hoping you get that call - I just want to go home," she says.

'Worrying time'

This week, Aimee was moved to PICU, the Children's Intensive Care Unit.

Aimee's mum, Valerie, says while her daughter is doing better it is a very "worrying time".

"Families, including parents and their children need to have that chat around organ donation," says Valerie.

"Please have the chat; it can make such a difference to a family that is waiting."

Twice as long

Being on a list is a waiting game.

There are currently four children in Northern Ireland waiting for a heart.

Meanwhile, some 181 children in the UK are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, with 17 dying last year while on the waiting list.

Dr Brian McCrossan is a consultant paediatric cardiologist in Belfast.

"It is the sad truth that children waiting for a heart or lung transplant do wait twice as long as adults," he says.

Image caption It's a sad truth that children in Northern Ireland wait longer than adults, says Dr McCrossan

"And what that means is that more children die waiting for a heart or lung transplant than would be the case."

'I am very grateful'

While Aimee waits, 11-year-old Ryan O'Callaghan is recovering.

He had his heart transplant 15 months ago, a bitter sweet time as he appreciates someone's death allowed him to live.

"I am very grateful for it. I feel very lucky and I feel like more people should have that opportunity as well," he says.

"Now I can go up the stairs with ease. I can do what normal kids do, I can play football, I can play with my dog, I can even run."

Ryan is telling his story via the Children's Heartbeat Trust to help others.

"Before I couldn't go up and down the stairs. I'd be out of breath all the time, and I know I was annoying - well just a little bit."

Image caption Playing football and playing with his dog are some of the things Ryan can do since getting a heart transplant

When asked how he felt having a new heart inside he says: "It's actually kind of fun. It's probably better than your old one."

His family really appreciates the meaning of life thanks to the generosity of others.

"One of the amazing things is adults can donate organs to children and children can donate to children but often there is still not enough," says Ryan's dad, Shane.

"Sadly, it takes a tragedy to happen but it means you can give something back to society.

"The gift of seeing somebody, in our case leading a completely new life, and the opportunity to do things that Ryan could never do - we are so very, very lucky."

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