West Yorkshire family’s donor register appeal as daughter thrives after lifesaving transplant

Julia Whitworth pictured with her daughter Laura, 12, who had a heart transplant in 2007. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Julia Whitworth pictured with her daughter Laura, 12, who had a heart transplant in 2007. Picture by Simon Hulme.
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Nine years on from a lifesaving heart transplant, Laura Whitworth has blossomed into a bubbly high school student.

The Mirfield 12-year-old, who was born with rare heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy, was flown 200 miles by helicopter from Leeds to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in a desperate bid to find her a donor organ in 2007.

Laura Whitworth pictured in hospital aged two on a Berlin Heart machine waiting for her transplant.

Laura Whitworth pictured in hospital aged two on a Berlin Heart machine waiting for her transplant.

After her family was told that Laura, who was aged just two at the time, could succumb to her heart problems at any time, she was kept alive by a machine for six weeks before a match was found and the five-hour operation could take place.

Speaking during Organ Donation Week, her mother Julia, 40, is urging people to think of their loved ones by signing the NHS Organ Donation Register – and potentially save lives.

It comes as the Yorkshire Post Newspapers-backed Be A Hero campaign urges more people to sign the register as around 700 people in the region await lifesaving transplants.

Julia said: “It was really hard for us all. When I think back I don’t know how we did it.

“The change in her was fantastic. When a child of two has gone through an operation like that you just think they will be asleep but she was sat up in bed, smiling and happy – it was just unbelievable.”

The youngster has faced a few health scares in recent years, while the Whitworths have learned to keep a constant eye on her condition. But, thanks to her heart transplant, she has grown into a bubbly, active and outgoing girl. Julia said: “You’ve got to be so grateful every day for the person that’s given your child that life.”

After her 2007 operation, Laura’s old heart was donated in case its valves and tissue could be used help others.

“If you know there’s somebody out there who could be saved, you would do it,” Julia added. “It’s the best thing anybody could do.”

New figures from NHS Blood and Transplant revealed this week that a record 279 people in Yorkshire received lifechanging transplants in 2015/16 although more people are needed to register as potential organ donors.

The first Be A Hero Day in Yorkshire will aim to boost the register on Friday.

To sign the register or for more information visit leedsth.nhs.uk/be-a-hero.

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