A brave boy who fought the odds to survive a heart transplant has urged people to follow in the footsteps of his little brother and promise to make a priceless donation.
Eleven-year-old Ollie Alderson from Thornton still holds on to a mechanical heart, similar to the one which kept him alive as he waited for a donor, as a reminder of his 10-month hospital ordeal.
But he made clear the £25,000 technological marvel, known as a Berlin Heart, is nothing compared to the gift of life an organ donor can give.
Little brother Josh, nine, is on the register.
And the Alderson family, who welcomed Ollie home last month, know the difference on small decision can make.
“I wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be home,” said Ollie who in September was still seriously ill in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, his body initially rejecting the new organ.
We feel lucky as you never know when or if there is going to be a donor
Mum Anne, 43, who kept a near-constant vigil at Ollie’s bedside, described the gift of a new heart as ‘priceless’.
She said: “We feel lucky as you never know when or if there is going to be a donor.
“People need to register, but not just register.
“They need to tell their families too.
“They need to know you want to give others the gift of life.
“You wouldn’t bury your most treasured possessions after your death.
“So why would you want to bury something truly priceless?”
In November, last year Ollie was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a chronic disease affecting the heart muscle.
He spent months in hospital awaiting a life-saving transplant, first at Liverpool’s Alder Hey then at the Newcastle Freeman.
For weeks, a mechanical Berlin Heart kept him alive while he waited for a donor.
Anne said: “This time last year we were just a normal family, Ollie was just a normal boy playing football and golf, enjoying school with his friends.”
“Everything has changed, but we’re just grateful to have Ollie home.
“Now it’s just a case of little targets, one step at a time.
“He’ll be on anti-rejection drugs for a long time possibly for the rest of his life.
“A new heart doesn’t last forever, 10, maybe 15 years. You don’t know what advances there will be in medicine and technology in that time.
“It’s not the end, but he’s home, with the family.”
And for Ollie, whose rejection of the new heart is currently only classed as minor, coming home to his family has been a dream come true.
“What I missed the most was Josh,” he said. “It’s good being able to play with him and my best friend Hayden.
“I’ve got a top five wish list of what I want to do... Florida, Malta, Center Parcs, the Pleasure Beach and the Sandcastle.
“And I can play golf.”
Ollie returned home a month ago and has already been out on the golf course at Poulton, carding 54 and winning his first competition back. “He was clapped onto the first tee,” said dad Jason, 44, a financial advisor.
“It was great to watch, and then to go out and play like that!
“The support from Poulton Golf Club and from Thornton Cleveleys Football Club has just been incredible.”
Ollie, who was visited by hero Lee Westwood during his hospital stay, said: “It was good playing golf again.
“The club even let me have a buggy to get around.Now I want some new club, like Lee uses and to be able to beat my brother again.”
The next big milestone for Ollie will be a return to school - an issue complicated by his age.
Ollie, who is currently being tutored at home, was at Anchorsholme Academy but moved into year seven in the summer, meaning he’ll be starting secondary school at Millfield when he’s fit to return.
Anne said: “Millfield have been brilliant, they’ve let Ollie go in and have a look around.
“It’s not too far away and a lot of his friends from the football club are there.
“He’s still very poorly and tired at the moment but we’re hoping he’ll be able to start back soon.”
Millfield staff are so supportive of Ollie, staff have combined their Christmas party night with a charity event his family are hosting at the Village Hotel in Blackpool next month.
Jason and Anne are keen to raise vital cash for the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital and charity the Sick Children’s Trust, which provided accommodation for family members in the North East.
The night, on December 3, is officially a sell out and Anne knows more than anyone the importance of funding such causes.
She said: “Without the Sick Children’s Trust, I wouldn’t have been able to stay with Ollie.
“They were amazing, so were the NHS. The drugs alone have cost thousands of pounds. We just want to help however we can.”
Ollie’s online appeal has already raised more than £2,000, with a little help from comedy star Justin Moorhouse who headlined a special night at Anchorsholme Academy earlier this year.
Ollie said: “I was told all this was happening because of me.
“It’s weird when you think about it.”
For more on Ollie and his appeal visit www.facebook.com/Olliesventure.