A new heart in three days, so why not here?

Caroline Woodrow, who used to live in Tring, had a heart transplant earlier this year.
Caroline Woodrow, who used to live in Tring, had a heart transplant earlier this year.

A woman who had a heart transplant earlier this year is backing a national campaign to change the UK’s law on organ transplantation.

Campaigners want new rules that will see people having to opt out of, rather than into, being on the organ donor register.

Caroline Woodrow, 44, who grew up in Tring and now lives in Paris, had a heart transplant in April under the French ‘presumed consent’ system after being diagnosed with dilated cardiomypathy – a thickening of the left ventricle.

She had to wait just three days for a suitable heart to be found after being placed on the waiting list.

Caroline, who has been living in Paris on and off for the last seven years while her mother still lives in Station Road, Tring, was fitted with a defibrillator and put on a regime of heart drugs after being diagnosed with the heart condition in 2010.

Doctors told her that she could need a transplant in three, five or 10 years time, but in March her defibrillator went off and over the next three weeks her condition rapidly deteriorated. The damage to her heart was so severe that it was only working at 10 per cent capacity and Caroline urgently needed a heart transplant.

She was placed on the transplant list on Thursday, April 12 and a match was found by the Sunday.

Back in the UK, her uncle Brian Woodrow, who lives in Beds, is campaigning for a change to the law.

Caroline said: “I know my uncle has long thought that our law in the UK needs changing, and I am right behind him on this because I believe they would not have found me a heart in time in the UK.”

In France the law states that everybody is assumed to be willing to be an organ donor unless they opt out, which can be done by registering refusal officially with the government or by telling immediate family members.

Speaking about the UK system, Caroline said: “In my opinion, it is only laziness that stops people registering as a donor, although I know they put a form in with passport renewals/driving licences now, but these forms just get thrown away.

“I feel if people had to opt out then, if they had very strong views about it, as everybody has the right to, they will be motivated to go online, register and tick a box saying no.

“It is so much easier when you don’t actually have to do anything, but if your beliefs are that strong then you will act.

“I have read that 90 per cent of the British public would say yes, but only 30 per cent are actually registered donors. This must change if we are to save lives.

“I can never thank enough the person – or the family – who gave me their heart, but having gone through this experience I want other people to realise what good they can do by just saying yes.”