Evelina London supports 'Waiting to Live' campaign

Last updated: Friday, 08 December 2023

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Helena with the doll she made for the campaign

Evelina London is backing a new campaign, 'Waiting to Live', led by the workplace of the mum of a child waiting for a transplant. It is drawing attention to the more than 230 children waiting across the UK for an organ transplant.

In a bid to raise vital awareness of the need for more child organ donors, this powerful campaign sees children waiting for the gift of life being transformed into handmade dolls that are being placed around the country.

There are currently 24 children waiting for a kidney transplant at Evelina London Children's Hospital, and each year around 20 receive the transplant they were waiting for, either thanks to a living kidney donor or a stranger donating their organs when they died.

To show our support for this important campaign, we have placed 3 dolls in Evelina London Children's Hospital: 1 in Ocean outpatient department on the ground floor, 1 in the atrium on the 3rd floor and 1 in Penguin ward in the South Wing of St Thomas' Hospital.

The dolls are wearing a badge inviting people passing by to scan a QR code and hear stories of children waiting for transplants from across the UK. We hope that the dolls and the real-life children's stories being shared through the campaign will inspire more families to consider organ donation and add themselves and their children to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

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A doll in Ocean outpatient department

Currently, there is a significant lack of child organ donors resulting in children and their families waiting for a life-saving donation that tragically sometimes doesn't come.

One Evelina London patient who got the transplant she needed is 16-year-old Helena Ambler. She had a kidney transplant at Evelina London in 2019 and has her follow-up appointments in Penguin ward.

She got the opportunity to make one of the dolls on display at the hospital while doing work experience at Wunderman Thompson, the creative agency spearheading the campaign.

Helena said: "As a young person who has had their life transformed by a kidney transplant, I was delighted to get the opportunity to make one of the dolls for this campaign.

"Growing up with kidney disease and then fortunately getting a kidney from my dad, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to help this campaign.

I really hope the doll I made will prompt people to scan the QR code, to think about organ donation and to put themselves and their children on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Without people willing to donate their organs, people like me can't get the transplant they so desperately need.

One of the other dolls on display as part of this campaign represents Jack, aged 7, who was treated at Evelina London when he was a baby and is now on the waiting list for a heart transplant. He lives with his family in Glasgow.

Jack was diagnosed with a heart condition in the womb and needed urgent surgery after he was born.

Mum, Fiona, says: "Jack was born at 34 weeks by an emergency C-section as I had pre- eclampsia. He had been diagnosed at my 20 week scan with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

"Jack was flown down to hospital to London when he was 1 day old and had his first open heart surgery at Evelina London when he was 2 days old. We were in London for the first 6 months of Jack's life where he had a further 2 open heart surgeries.

"Jack had a really rough start in life. He had a serious bowel condition twice, 3 mini strokes and 3 cardiac arrests. He was fed by tube until he was 19 months old. Jack did really well when we got home and when he was 2 years and 8 months old he had Fontan surgery. This unfortunately failed and Jack was in heart failure.

"Jack was actively listed on the heart transplant list in August 2020. It's very stressful waiting on the call. Both my husband and I get very nervous if we receive a phone call from a private number.

A transplant for Jack would mean hope, a fresh start. Something we can only dream of at the moment.

We hope that stories like Jack and Helena's will inspire more parents and carers to register themselves and their children on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

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Jack's doll

Grainne Walsh, paediatric advanced nurse practitioner in Evelina London's transplant team said: "In my job every day I see the impact of organ donation. While no family ever wants to contemplate the death of their child, when organ donation becomes a possibility, it is often in very sudden or unexpected circumstances. I hope this campaign will prompt families to consider organ donation, so if they do ever find themselves in the tragic situation of losing their own child, they have already thought about whether organ donation is something they support and can help them at a time of immense sadness and grief."

The campaign has been spearheaded by WPP agencies Wunderman Thompson, with the help of the global communications agency BCW, supported by NHS Blood and Transplant.

Ralph, 3, is waiting for a multi organ transplant and his mum Katie is being backed by her colleagues to raise awareness of not only of their situation but the more than 230 children in the UK waiting for an organ transplant.

Find out more about the campaign on the NHS Organ Donation website.

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Grainne Walsh with 2 of the Waiting to Live dolls

Contact us

Media enquiries
Phone: 020 7188 5577
Email: press@gstt.nhs.uk