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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Carlisle couple who lost baby boy appeal for organ donors

A couple have made a powerful and emotional appeal for parents to sign their children up to the organ donor register.

Shelley and Lee Wealleans photo
Shelley and Lee Wealleans

It is almost a year since Shelley and Lee Wealleans, of Botcherby, Carlisle, watched their baby boy die.

Mackenzie had a heart defect and was on the transplant register for 60 days before his little body finally gave up. He was buried on what would have been his second birthday.

The couple have taken the brave move to release photos taken of Mackenzie in hospital in the lead up to his death.

Shelley, 27, said: “We had already been prepared that if he survived he would lose his hand, because of the lack of blood flow.

“By the end, the fingers on one hand were little shrivelled black sticks and he had a black foot.

“This is how much he deteriorated; this is what an organ donation could have prevented.”

She is now seven months pregnant with a little girl, who they plan to call Madison.

Tests have so far shown the baby has avoided the condition which killed Mackenzie but her parents have already decided to sign her up to the organ donor register within minutes of her birth.

This would potentially make her the youngest person on the register.

Lee explained: “Because Mackenzie was so young, he could only take a heart from a child aged up to five or six.

“We were told it could take two to three weeks but he waited two months without a heart.

“Can you honestly tell me that in the three months my son was in hospital, the 60 days he was top of the transplant list, that not a single child in the UK died?”

A heart did not become available until six weeks after Mackenzie’s death, which saved the life of another little boy.

Shelley knows it is an individual choice and understands the agony over whether to donate your child’s organs, having experienced it herself. Her first son, Lewis, died eight years ago after suffering heart problems.

These were different to Mackenzie’s and meant that when her first-born child was given no chance of survival, aged just three months, she was faced with the awful decision over whether to donate his organs.

“I said no,” she recalled, “and it is the biggest regret I have ever had.

“I was just 19 and it had all happened so fast. They have to ask you at the moment when you have been told your child has no chance of survival, and you are in shock; your world is ending.”

This is part of the reason why the couple believe the UK should adopt the same system as that used in the EU, where people opt out of being a donor, rather than opting in.

Lee declared: “If we were an opt-out nation like Germany, Spain or Italy, my son would still be alive. I know that and the hospital would agree.

“Anyone who says they won’t donate is a hypocrite; if your child needed a heart you would be the first to praise the organ donor register.

“You could save a child’s life.”

The couple’s grief is evident and their loss is still raw.

Shelley said: “I can’t believe it is almost a year – it still hurts so much. You expect to take your child to school, to walk them down the aisle.

“You never expect to say goodbye.”

Shelley has another son, six-year-old Corey also from her first marriage and he struggles to accept the reality that his baby brother is gone.

“He asks if this new baby is coming home, or will have to stay in hospital,” she recalled.

Lee added: “He’s started asking why his brother didn’t get a heart but somebody else’s brother did.

“We struggle to understand that, so how can he?”

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