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Sunday, June 13, 1999 Published at 00:23 GMT 01:23 UK


Organ donation makes the difference

Callum Durkin was born without a gut

Callum Durkin is only two but unless he receives a new liver and small bowel he has only a year to live.

He is one of more than 5,000 people in the UK waiting for an organ transplant. Unfortunately there is a serious shortage of donor organs, and many people die without ever undergoing surgery.

On the eve of National Transplant Week, BBC television's Giving Life programme uncovered the human drama behind the bald statistics.

Callum was born without a gut and cannot be given food by mouth.

His parents keep him alive by drip feeding him through a vein.

But his veins have been damaged by the daily drips and now he only has one vein left through which he can be fed.

His mother Mandy said: "At the moment his life is limited, he is a little timebomb."

Mandy said that many people - consultants, social workers, paediatricians, community nurses - have helped Callum, but only one person can ultimately help him to survive.

"That is the person that has actually got the courage to offer a part of their child for Callum, to look through the tragedy of the loss of their own child and actually make that contribution."

Father Steve said that for the last two years the family has lived in a "twilight zone".

"I know that one day we will get that call, and one day we will pick up everything and go," he said.

"If you get an unexpected phone call your heart just races."

But if Callum dies, Steve, is sure he will donate his organs to another child.

"Donating would be a way of something good coming out of it. It would make sense."

Severe liver failure

[ image: Connor Sears has undergone surgery]
Connor Sears has undergone surgery
Seven-month-old Connor Sears, from Oxford, has been lucky. He was born with severe liver failure and required a new liver and small bowel.

A donor was found, and Connor's lifesaving operation was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It is one of only 12 such operations that have been carried out in this country - on two occasions it was not successful.

Doctors believed that within weeks he would have been too weak to survive intricate surgery lasting eight hours.

His new liver should give Connor between five and 20 years of extra life.

Callum's mother Melanie is acutely aware that somebody else's generosity has given her son the chance of survival.

She said: "They have possibly saved my boy's life. Thank you is not the appropriate word, it is not good enough."

At any one time approximately 200 people need a liver transplant in the UK.

However, 10%-15% die before an organ becomes available.

Surgeon Dr John Buckles said: "Virtually 100% of people when offered an organ to save life, as opposed to being asked to be a donor, say yes. It is a bit of paradox that we are prepared always to receive, but not always to give."

In fact, one in three people who asked to donate the organs of relative say no.

Giving Life is broadcast on BBC1 on Sunday 13 June. 2000 BST.

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