Youngest survivor celebrates
A WOMAN who had a heart transplant as a babyaby has just turned 30 – and is marking the milestone birthdayrthday with a plea for more donors.
Every beat of the organ in Kaylee Davidson-Olley’s chest est reminds her just how lucky she is to be alive.
But Britain’s youngestgest surviving transplant patient is only nly too aware that many other peopleople will die without similar ops.
And she knows first-handst-hand the pain of losing hundredsndreds of friends who did not make it.
Kaylee plans to celebrate ebrate the 30th anniversary of her 1987 transplant with fund-raisingd-raising events, including a walk alk and an 80s fancy dress party.arty.
She told the Sunday unday People: “I’m excitedd about it. When the day comes mes I’ll be thinking, ‘Wow, I’veve come this far.’ It will be me realising what I’ve gone through, ugh, and what I’ll go through later on.
“I’ll have my family y and friends there to celebrate. My doctors will also be there as they’rey’re part of the family.”
Kaylee has led a full life, including winning gold for the UK at the World Transplant Games, but she has also experienced her share of sadness, depression and mental health problems.
And her anniversary celebrations will be marred by grief at the death last year of her best pal and fellow transplant patient Joanne Hope.
She said: “It’s going to be so hard without Joanne because she has always been there for me.
“But being the first successful infant heart transplant in the UK means the world.
“I feel like I have a sense of responsibility with transplantation and especially paediatrics. I want to show there is a life after transplant.”
Kaylee’s heart was severely damaged as a newborn by a viral infection and she was put on the transplant list.
The op had never been successful on a baby outside the US, but on October 14, 1987, Kaylee made history by receiving a new heart at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
Her survival for three decades is testimony to how crucial it is for more people to register for organ donation – something she has cam- paigned for her entire life. More funding is needed to help the 6,335 desperately ill Brits, including 182 children, currently on the waiting list for new organs.
Three people die every day while waiting for transplants.
Kaylee, from Durham, said: “I’ve lost hundreds of close friends.
“People who have either been waiting for transplants, or have gone i nto chronic rejection and it hasn’t worked. Every time I lose someone I lose part of me as well.”
Closest f r i end Joanne was given a heart transplant in the same hospital as Kaylee a year after her.
They met as children in the Freeman transplant clinic and grew close despite a 10-year age gap.
Later they lost touch but an emotional reunion followed in 2012 when Joanne attended the 25th anniversary of Kaylee’s op. From that moment on they did everything together, accompanying each other to transplant clinics and hospital appointments where they mercilessly teased their cardiologist
BEST PAL: Kaylee, right, with Joanne