Brave Falkirk youngster to receive Pride of Scotland Award

A schoolboy from the Falkirk area who has been battling to survive since birth – undergoing pioneering heart transplant surgery – will have his bravery and fighting spirit rewarded on television tomorrow night.

By James Trimble
Monday, 26th July 2021, 11:05 am

Aaron Hunter (10), from Bo’ness, was born with hypo-plastic left heart syndrome, meaning he had only half a heart.

He will be named as the Child of Courage winner at the Pride of Scotland Awards, an event which honours the nation’s unsung heroes.

The awards, which will be broadcast on STV on tomorrow night, will be hosted by Kirsty Gallacher and Nicky Campbell.

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Aaron Hunter (10) will receive his Child of Courage award later today

Child of courage Aaron underwent his first life-saving surgery just hours after he was born. Further major surgery followed, but an operation when he was three failed and he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed. He was in intensive care for five months.

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Doctors said he was unlikely to survive beyond another year, and even after he passed that milestone, it was feared he would be one of the 25 per cent of children on the transplant list who die before a new heart can be found.

However, in 2018 a suitable heart was found for Aaron, but there was a difficult choice for his family to make.

The organ had been kept pumping outside a human body in a pioneering “heart in a box” procedure.

A UK programme to use it on adults began at Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge in 2015,

When it comes to transplants, surgeons typically use hearts donated by patients who are declared brain stem dead but whose hearts are still beating. Retrieving the hearts of patients who have suffered cardiac death was considered too risky a prospect.

However, a “heart in a box” machine – called an Organ Care System (OCS) – was engineered to emulate the human body, keeping the heart warm, beating and pumping blood so it is healthy for transport to the recipient.

Aaron was the first child anywhere in the world to undergo this new type of transplant and his mum Stephanie had to sign a special consent form to allow the operation to take place.

The surgery was a success, and is the reason Aaron will be able to collect his award today.

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