OUR SIS­TER’S HEART LIVES ON IN MAX

One fam­ily’s painful de­ci­sion has given this coura­geous boy a sec­ond chance at life

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Real Life -

Hold­ing a stetho­scope to lit­tle Max John­son’s chest, Joe Ball wipes away tears as he hears his daugh­ter Keira’s heart beat for the first time since her tragic death.

The train fit­ter then em­braces the 10-year-old, seal­ing a bond that will never be bro­ken. “Now I know what the do­na­tion has done for him, it brings it all home, this is the real per­son,” Joe, 35, tells Woman’s Day. “It feels like such a big part of Keira is in Max now.”

Joe’s world came crash­ing down in July last year when he heard his wife Loanna and two of his kids – Keira and Bradley, then nine and seven – had been in­volved in a se­ri­ous car crash near their home in Barn­sta­ple, Devon, in Eng­land.

Joe ar­rived at the hospi­tal to find Loanna and Bradley fight­ing for their lives, and Keira in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion af­ter suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous head in­juries. Three days later, while Loanna was still in and out of con­scious­ness, a doc­tor de­liv­ered the dev­as­tat­ing news there was noth­ing more he could do for Keira.

In­spired by his “lit­tle princess”, Joe and his other daugh­ters – Keely, 13, and 12-year-old Kate­lyn – made the ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sion to do­nate Keira’s or­gans.

IN­CRED­I­BLE LE­GACY

“She was the most lov­ing child you could ever wish to meet,” Joe says. “She would give any­thing to help any­one. When they came to ask me about or­gan do­na­tion, I knew it was what Keira would have wanted.”

This self­less de­ci­sion ended up sav­ing the lives of four peo­ple – in­clud­ing Max who’d been wait­ing 196 days to have his heart re­placed af­ter it was se­verely dam­aged due to car­diomy­opa­thy, a con­di­tion that causes the heart to en­large.

“Max was in dan­ger of im­mi­nent death,” his mum Emma says. “And Keira’s heart could not wait to start beat­ing. He was lucky to have a sec­ond chance.”

Af­ter his surgery suc­cess, Max penned a thank you card to his then anony­mous donor fam­ily.

“You have saved my life and it is very hard to put that in to words. Words are not enough. It is spe­cial to be able to say thank you in per­son,” he wrote.

And his heart­felt wish came true in April when the Ball fam­ily trav­elled to Max’s home in Wins­ford, Cheshire, to meet Max,

his mum Emma, a mar­ket­ing as­sis­tant, his dad Paul, a civil ser­vant, and brother, Harry, 12.

As they cheer­fully pass the stetho­scope around the room, Max shows off the scar on his ster­num. “It’s so nice to hear Keira’s heart again,” sis­ter Kate­lyn says. “It’s very fast. He told us he calls his heart ‘Kax’ af­ter Keira and Max. We’re go­ing to call it Meira.”

While the John­sons were thrilled to hear their son would fi­nally get a life­sav­ing trans­plant, it came with mixed emo­tions.

“When the call came to say the e heart was there, you are happy for your own child, but re­ally dev­as­tated for the donor fam­ily,” ” Emma, 47, re­calls. “There are such con­flict­ing emo­tions.”

Meet­ing Max has given great com­fort to Keira’s mum, who was wheeled from her ward to hold her lit­tle girl’s hand and say y good­bye. Max’s dad as­sures her and Joe their pre­cious Keira will never be for­got­ten.

“Keira is part of our fam­ily now, and al­ways will be. It will never, ever come close to re­plac­ing what you have lost,” says Paul.

“But if it gives you com­fort then n for me, it’s the least we can do.”

‘It’s so nice to hear Keira’s heart again. It’s very fast’

GREAT­EST GIFT Keira (cir­cled) with her sis­ters Keely and Kate­lyn.

Max with Keira’s sib­lings Keely, Kate­lyn, and Bradley. Keira’s or­gans saved four lives, in­clud­ing Max’s. Keira’s dad Joe lis­tens to her heart beat in­side Max.

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