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Parents of miracle girl Evie urge more people to be organ donors

Castlewellan tot thriving after heart transplant

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Evie Keown after her life-saving transplant

Evie Keown after her life-saving transplant

Evie Keown after her life-saving transplant

The parents of a young Co Down girl whose life was saved by a heart transplant have urged people to join the organ donor register.

Evie Keown was fighting for survival this time last year when her family backed Organ Donation Week.

A year on and the two-year-old is again the focus of a heartfelt plea to mark this year's appeal, which runs this week - only this time it is an altogether more uplifting message.

Kelly-Anne Keown (32) and husband Gareth (33) from Castlewellan have come through a traumatic journey with the youngest of their three girls, who spent the first 14 months of her life in hospital.

When they agreed to support the Children's Heartbeat Trust appeal for Organ Donation Week in 2019, their baby's life hung by a thread. A year on and Evie has just celebrated her second birthday with her older sisters Muireann (8) and Meave (3), and has astonished everyone by her progress since coming through a heart transplant last November.

Kelly-Anne said: "She literally is a miracle. She was so ill this time last year that she spent seven months in ICU and quite a few times we nearly lost her.

"At one point we even planned her funeral after being called into a side room to say goodbye to her.

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Battler: Evie on her second birthday with parents Kelly-Anne and Gareth

Battler: Evie on her second birthday with parents Kelly-Anne and Gareth

Battler: Evie on her second birthday with parents Kelly-Anne and Gareth

"We really didn't think she'd get a transplant and we were very realistic about the chances of a baby her age and her size getting a suitable donor organ.

"She had deteriorated so much that we didn't even know if she would be fit to travel to the hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne where the surgery was to be carried out."

Kelly-Anne told how they were left overjoyed when they got a call to say a donor organ had been found for little Evie on November 15 last year.

Within two hours they were in Birmingham and their daughter came through the surgery later that night.

Evie was born with a condition that meant only half of her heart was functioning and went through the first of three major surgeries when she was just two days old.

She faced another operation at four months old and afterwards remained so critically ill that she was unable to leave hospital.

When her parents appealed for people to support Organ Donation Week in 2019, Kelly-Anne admitted that they did not think their own daughter would benefit.

She added: "Before I was in this situation I would never have thought of the importance of kids being on the register. It is only when it happens to you that you realise how important it is and this year after seeing what a transplant has done for us - it literally saved us as well as Evie - we felt it was more important than ever to back the campaign."

Seeing her daughter come through the surgery and be able to join her sisters at home for the first time two days before Christmas last year was a joy Kelly-Anne feared she would never experience.

She added: "It is like she has always been at home and it's great for her sisters to have her home and for our family to be complete."

"It is such a hard process. No one likes to think about losing a child but another child has not just saved Evie but multiple people."

Belfast Telegraph