Oli's anxious wait

9 July 2014        

Oli Harrison in hospital

In the second part of her story for National Transplant Week, Emma Harrison tells us about Oli's anxious wait for a new heart.

I was so relieved that Oli had been put on to the transplant list. But frightened at the same time because there aren’t enough donors.

Every year 1,000 people in the UK die or become too ill for an operation whilst waiting for an organ transplant. I was hoping and praying that Oli wouldn’t be one of them.

By July we’d been waiting four months and it was on my mind every day. Every minute. The state of Oli’s heart meant that he easily got exhausted and looked blue.

He couldn’t get through a full day at school. He was managing to live at home but I feared the shortage of donors and the number of poorly children waiting meant his health would deteriorate so that he became a hospital inpatient before he got his transplant.

Then the miracle happened.

It was a Monday, August 19. At 3.17am the phone rang. It was the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle saying they had found a potential heart for Oli.

Everything happened very fast. Oli was rushed in a blue-light ambulance to Manchester airport where a jet was waiting on the runway to take us to the hospital.

Oli was completely quiet on the flight – he didn’t say anything. Then the sun came up and he said: ‘Isn’t the sun beautiful mum?’ 

It was an especially complicated operation, because Oli has never had a full functioning heart and so they had to do a lot of replumbing.


He had his lifesaving transplant that afternoon. It was an especially complicated operation, because Oli has never had a full functioning heart and so they had to do a lot of replumbing.

It was ten hours of agony waiting to hear how it went. Then came the critical period of recovery, when Oli was in intensive care, in isolation. He was being checked every day for signs of rejection of the new heart.

After 16 days we were preparing to go home with Oli. But we got dreadful news. Oli’s immune system was rejecting the heart and he had to go back into isolation.

It was more than a month before doctors could be sure the anti-rejection drugs had worked and we could bring Oli home.