A CRUSADING heart transplant schoolboy is helping to save lives after changing the law on organ donation.

Max Johnson, from Winsford, is only alive today thanks to Keira Ball, a nine year old girl who tragically lost her life in a car crash.

Winsford Guardian:

Max on his new bike kindly donated by Halfords after his old bike was wrecked by vandals

The 12-year-old spearheaded new legislation known as Max and Keira's Law which came into effect in England six months ago.

Since May, it means that people are now considered as willing to donate, unless they have opted out or told their family they don't want to donate.

Winsford Guardian:

Winsford Academy schoolboy Max is only alive today thanks to receiving a heart from nine-year-old Keira Ball, who tragically lost her life in a car crash

NHS Blood and Transplant says the law is already having a positive effect.

Initial figures just published show that so far 135 people have donated their organs after being considered as willing to donate as they had not expressed an organ donation decision in their lifetime.

These donations account for 26 per cent of all donations that took place during the same time period and resulted in a total of 341 organs transplanted.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ and tissue donation and transplantation, at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Although the law change came into effect in the midst of the first lockdown, we have been able to complete training for all of our specialist nurses and implement the new law across the country.

"It is still early days, but we have been really encouraged by the levels of support shown for organ donation and the new law over the last six months.

“While it is important to remember that many of these families may have agreed to organ donation even if the law hadn’t changed, for others, it has provided them with the confidence to allow organ donation to go ahead.”

Max's mum Emma, said: "The results so far are very encouraging, despite the pandemic. We hope that the change of law will continue to raise both awareness and the consent rate.

Winsford Guardian:

Max with dad Paul, mum Emma and brother Harry

"We are so grateful to organ donor families who were able to give their blessing and we are also grateful to NHS BT for their tireless efforts. Max is a happy bunny."

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Max was only eight when he suddenly fell ill and was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Until then, he was a normal, healthy, fun-loving child.

Doctors implanted an electric pump to keep him but his health was rapidly deteriorating.

Max spent 206 days in hospital on the urgent transplant list.

Emma said: "Max was only a whisker away from dying. I am 100 per cent certain that if Keira's organ hadn't been donated Max wouldn't be here now."

One of the first relatives to agree to donation since the new law came in, was the family of Lewis Mcdonough, 18, from Birmingham who sadly died following a sudden cardiac arrest.

Although Lewis had not recorded an organ donation decision or spoken with his family, he went on to save three lives, after donating his liver and kidneys.

Lewis’ mum, Lisa Cruise, an A&E nurse, said: “As a nurse, I had often supported families in coming to terms with the sudden loss of a loved one and even cared for patients who have gone on to be organ donors. However, I never in a million years thought I would ever be the one in that situation. Not least for my handsome, funny, full of life 18 year old son.

“Yet as soon as I saw the look in the eyes of the consultant who came to speak with me, I just knew it wasn’t going to be good news. Having been the one to break difficult news to families many times before, I recognised a certain look in his eyes that told me all I needed to know.

“Although I was already on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and aware of the recent change in the law, sadly it was never something we had properly discussed as a family.

"It was almost impossible getting Lewis to have a serious conversation. While I knew straightaway that organ donation was the right decision, I would urge everyone to speak with your friends and family today.

“To know that Lewis has saved lives is our one comfort. I kept thinking about how that while we were hearing the worst possible news, others would be getting those life-changing calls and crying tears of happiness. That was what kept me going.”

Since April 2016, more than 2000 people across the UK have died while waiting for an organ transplant. The hope is that the new law will eventually enable more people to donate and/or receive the transplants they need.

Mr Clarkson said“The last six months have been some of the most challenging for both the NHS and the country as a whole, so to see the numbers of people saying yes to organ donation, and in doing so giving the ultimate gift of life at this difficult time, is really incredible. It shows just how strong the support for organ donation is across the country.

"We are humbled that despite everything, the remarkable efforts of organ donation and transplant teams across the country, as well as the enduring support of donor families, has enabled us to keep transplants going for those in most urgent need throughout the pandemic.

“Even though the law around organ donation has now changed, it is important that people know that families continue to be consulted if organ donation becomes a possibility.

“Sadly, many organ donation opportunities are still lost each year, as families don’t know if their loved one wanted to be a donor or not. Please don’t wait. Register your organ donation decision and speak with your family today.”

For more information, or register your organ donation decision visit organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.