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Parents back opt-out organ donor system after transplant saves baby

THE parents of a three-year-old girl who received a life-saving liver transplant when she was just six months old are backing calls for an opt-out system of organ donation.

Kirstin and Jamie McIlvaney were told their daughter Erin might not live to see her first birthday after she was born with an extremely rare liver condition. Doctors had feared she would not survive for another week when a donor was found.

The couple, from Carstairs in South Lanarkshire, now want a change in the law to help drive up donor numbers by adopting a process where individuals are presumed to have consented for their organs to be donated unless they opt out. Mrs McIlvaney said: "Anything that can improve the uptake and raise awareness is a good thing. We were lucky. We know of a lot of families, whose children haven't made it."

Erin was born with biliary atresia, a condition in which inflammation develops within the bile ducts around the time of birth. This leads to bile duct damage, reducing the flow of bile, which causes scarring of the liver. Only around one out of every 18,000 infants is affected.

Without treatment, few children live beyond the age of two. Erin was transferred to a hospital in Leeds because Scotland does not have a paediatric liver unit and she was placed on the transplant list.

Mrs McIlvaney, who is expecting the couple's second child, said: "We got a call after eight days. She got a split liver and part of it went to an adult.

"She wouldn't have made it to her first birthday without it. I think a lot of adults don't realise they could help a child. The piece she got will grow with her so hopefully she won't need another transplant."

Many children die waiting for a transplant and the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, which have supported the McIlvaneys, says more parents are considering donating part of their own liver because of the shortage of organs for transplant.

The charity yesterday held Big Yellow Friday, a national fundraising drive for childhood liver disease.

Alison Taylor, from the charity, said: "We rely on community fundraising for the majority of our income which is why Big Yellow Friday is such an important day for us."

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