THE 25th anniversary of the first successful baby heart transplant was marked by a gathering of dozens of transplant recipients.
Kaylee Davidson-Olley, who underwent the historic procedure 25 years ago, was joined by more than 30 people who have since had the operation as babies.
Miss Davidson-Olley of Houghton-le-Spring, Wearside, made medical history at only five months old when she successfully received a heart transplant at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, on October 14, 1987.
Since then, 112 children under the age of one from across the country have received new hearts.
Miss Davidson-Olley, 25, said: “I cannot believe that I am fit and healthy 25 years after my heart transplant.
“I feel overwhelmed, excited and very emotional.
“This was only made possible because of the generosity of a family who made that important decision about organ donation, a decision that saved my life.
“Without that family discussing organ donation, I simply would not be here.
“I hope that my own story and that of all the children at this special event will encourage others to be involved, if only to just talk about organ donation with their family.”
Miss Davidson-Olley, who balances studying at college with a busy athletics schedule, has recently been picked to represent Great Britain at the World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa, in July.
Dr Richard Kirk, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Freeman Hospital, said: “The 25th anniversary of Kaylee’s operation is a celebration of both her life, the skills of the medical team who have looked after her and Kaylee and her family’s determination to make the most of the gift of life from her donor.
“We are very proud of Kaylee and urge parents to consider organ donation, despite incredibly difficult circumstances.”
Other recipients who attended the event came from all over the UK as well as from Ireland and Switzerland.
Miss Davidson-Olley’s mother, Carol, said: “Looking back, it was such an incredible experience with lots of tears and laughter. Due to the generosity of another family, we are able to celebrate today.
“But there are six babies currently waiting for a heart donor, so I want people to look at Kaylee and the children here and talk about donation with their families.”
To find out how to join the NHS organ donor register, visit uktransplant.org.uk or contact the organ donor line on 03001-232323.