Our boy is desperate for a heart transplant
THE family of a Bristol student in desperate need of a heart transplant are appealing for more youngsters to sign the organ donor register.
In 2009 Will Pope was 16 when his art teacher sent him to see the school nurse because he looked so poorly.
He was immediately taken to A&E before being urgently transferred to Harefield Hospital – a renowned cardiothoracic and transplant centre in Middlesex – where it was established a virus had attacked his heart.
Will was so ill surgeons had to wait two days before he was stable enough to operate and install a heart pump.
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After recovering Will completed his A-levels and started in September 2011 at the University of Bristol where he is doing a degree in classical civilisation. He lives in Clifton.
At the end of his first year Will, now 20, undertook the London to Mongolia Rally but on his return immediately fell ill again and since August 28 has been back at Harefield Hospital in urgent need of a heart transplant.
His father Philip, an actor and composer, who grew up in Clevedon, said: "When he got back we had him immediately checked out and they said his heart had badly deteriorated over the last nine months. It was so bad they said they were going to keep him there on the urgent heart transplant list.
"He is number one on the list but unfortunately a heart that ticks the boxes of tissue, blood group and age – giving it the best chance of not being rejected – has not become available.
"I think it just highlights the dearth of donors in this country – especially in Will's age group.
"Will is staring at a very difficult situation but he has remained positive and very brave and we are incredibly proud of him but we can't possibly imagine what he is going through – it's bad enough being his parents.
"He is – like us – just hoping beyond hope that he will get a transplant."
Mr Pope, his wife Rosie, and Will's brothers Matthew, 17 and Guy, 14, are still hopeful that a suitable heart will be found.
"It's sad because apparently nine out of ten people agree with organ donation but only three out of ten actually sign up," Mr Pope said.
"If they did, a great deal more lives would be saved so we want to raise awareness and show people how easy it is to sign up.
"When you are young you think you are immortal and I totally understand that – I was exactly the same – but it is so easy to spread the word with social media now we hope to get the message out there and get people thinking about it.
"Young people need to sign up so if God forbid something happens to them there is an organ because at the moment they just will not be able to get one."
Will's story appears this evening on ITV's Tonight programme called Waiting for a Heart.
Mr Pope said: "When Will agreed to do the programme he didn't still think he would be waiting for a heart when it was broadcast. It just highlights the need for a greater number of people to sign up to the organ donor register.
"It's also important you let someone know your wishes because I sympathise with people who have lost someone wanting them to be kept how they remembered them.
"It's a bit like writing your will. You don't want to because you don't want to think about your demise but it's better to get it done so that it's in place. We would do anything for Will to be returned to full health."
â Waiting for a Heart is on ITV1 at 7.30pm tonight.
â For more information or to join the Organ Donation register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.