Although the NHS can generally meet demand on most transplant tissue such as eyes, skin and tendons, they are currently struggling to provide enough human heart valves. It means that surgeons are having to use tissue from pigs or mechanical valves which are not generally as reliable.
Kyle Bennett, a manager at the NHS Blood and Transplant centre in Liverpool, urged people to have a conversation with loved ones about donating tissue and organs.
He said: “It’s just trying to think what would you want for your child should they need a valve. It’s an incredibly tough decision at probably the most difficult time of their lives. But donor families get a lot of comfort in knowing that they’ve donated tissue that has then gone on the help save the lives of somebody else.”
NHS Blood and Transplant needs around 60 heart valve donations a month to meet clinical demand but currently receives around 40.
Parents Pete and Amanda Ridgwell from York joined a campaign to boost donations after their six-week-old daughter Emily died in a hospice.
Emily had suffered a series of low oxygen crashes but her heart valves were used to help save the lives of two other girls – one aged seven months and the other just one month old.
Amanda told Sky News: “Emily had such a short life and such difficult times that you wanted something positive to have come out of it and there to have been a reason.
“We just thought that maybe if she could help other people in similar situations… that there could have been a bit of a purpose to what happened.
“We were so proud of her anyway but we thought it would be a lovely, extra legacy.”
More donations from all age groups are needed by the NHS. There is a particular need for paediatric donors as they provide small-sized valves which are needed for certain types of operations on children.