Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Transplant family urges UK debate

Sarah Cox is the UK's youngest surviving heart transplant patient

The parents of the UK's youngest surviving heart transplant patient have called for a debate on Britain's organ donor laws.

Sarah Cox was only 23 days old when she had a heart transplant that doctors say saved her life after she contracted a virus that damaged her heart.

Laws in the UK prevent donor organs being taken from children under two months old.

In this case it was possible as it came from a country with different rules.

Sarah's parents, Jennie and Nigel Cox, say that they are indebted to the donor's family, and the inconsistency in the law that allowed their daughter to receive the heart transplant.

Mrs Cox said: "There is a discrepancy and it's a discrepancy that has benefited Sarah.

"We are immensely grateful to the family that made that decision to donate Sarah's organ and we are extremely relieved that the rules in that other country weren't the same as they are here or she wouldn't be here.

"We'd like a debate about whether the rules should be changed here but we are in no position to say if it's right or wrong."

Organ donor plea

Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Sarah, received the transplant, cannot identify the location of the donor's family to protect their anonymity.

Dr Mike Burch, director of cardiothoracic transplantation and a consultant cardiologist at the hospital, said that this raised questions about the UK's current rules.

"If we hadn't had the opportunity, she (Sarah) would have died. Seeing her so vibrant and well makes me think we should revisit things in the UK."

Mr and Mrs Cox have also appealed for more people to sign up to the organ donor register.

"I would just encourage people to give it some thought - if they feel it's something they would like to do and about what they would do if tragedy hit one of their children."

Although 90% of people told a UK Transplant survey that they support an organ donor register in principle, only 26% have joined it.

Describing the moment they were told of the life-threatening nature of their daughter's virus at the time, Mrs Cox said: "We were completely devastated. We couldn't believe what we were being told, that a little baby that had been so healthy only three weeks before was about to die."

Sarah's parents say she is now as healthy and lively as any two-year-old, except for the fact she has to take medicine twice a day.

"She's just a normal little girl," Mrs Cox said.

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