The father of critically ill teenager Gareth Anderson has said he faces a two-week “time-bomb” to secure his son a life-saving liver transplant operation.
The 19-year-old has been told he may be dead in a fortnight, but NHS transplant guidelines mean it could be six months before he can go on the waiting list for a new liver.
His father Brian is pursuing a legal challenge to get his son the operation and has pleaded with politicians and health chiefs to treat the case as an exception.
“I'm dealing with a timebomb now,” he said. “I've basically two weeks to save Gareth.”
Although it is common medical practice in the UK to insist that liver patients whose conditions are linked to alcohol abuse go without a drink for six months before going on the waiting list, it is only a guideline and not a formal rule.
Mr Anderson insists the policy should apply to older patients with chronic alcoholism, not a teenager who has never before needed medical treatment for a drink related illness.
“I have to take this to the courts, what else can I do,” said Mr Anderson.
While Mr Anderson originally intended to launch a judicial review in Belfast High Court, it is understood the legal challenge may now have to be made in England after the teen's move to London.
His son, who was transferred from the Ulster Hospital near Belfast to Kings College Hospital, London at the weekend, suffered acute liver failure after a weekend binge-drinking session.
Mr Anderson said he felt he had to try and cover all the legal angles to help his son.
“I’ve gone so far and the media has been fantastic for me,” he said.
“Some child or their parents is going to come behind me in the same situation.
“I’ve got to set a precedent here, and I hope I do so with my son home.”
Speaking from his hospital bed in London, critically-ill Gareth spoke out of his fear of dying from liver failure.
“I’ll never touch another drink for the rest of my life,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
“It’s not worth it. It was just one weekend with loads of drinking and it will never happen again.
“This is terrifying, I just want to get better and go home.
“I don’t want to end my life this early. I’m going to keep on fighting and hope for the best.
“This is the most painful time in my whole life. A transplant means everything in the world to me,” he added.
His heartbroken mum Vivienne, who is at his bedside at King’s Hospital in London, also spoke to the BBC of her “living nightmare”.
She pleaded with young people to think hard about the risks of alcohol and also insisted her son is not an alcoholic.
“People can go out and have fun but please, please, please don’t go and do this. It’s Russian roulette. No-one can say who can cope with it and who can’t,” she said.
“I wouldn’t wish this on any parent. All you can do is your best for your children and hope that they listen to you.”
A spokesman for King’s College said yesterday that Gareth was in a stable condition.
Last week Northern Ireland Health Minister Michael McGimpsey came under pressure to intervene, although he made clear that all decisions about the case had to be left to the doctors.