Courageous transplant boy Max Johnson, who has become the national face of a vital campaign, has been nominated for a Your Champions award.
Time was running out for nine-year-old Max who desperately needed a heart transplant as he was being kept alive by a mechanical pump fitted inside his tiny chest.
Max, from Winsford, became the face of a national campaign by the Daily Mirror which is calling on the Government to change organ donation laws – and save thousands of lives.
And now Max has been nominated as the Young Person of the Year in the 2017 Your Champions awards.
The annual Your Champions search for the unsung heroes and heroines of our community reaches its 30th year in 2017.
Every year for the past three decades, Trinity Mirror Cheshire has teamed up with ScottishPower Foundation to throw the spotlight on those people and groups who go above and beyond to make their communities a better place to live.
Max’s family voiced their support for The Mirror’s Change the Law for Life campaign which calls for an opt-out donor system to replace the current opt-in one.
Currently in the UK, 10,000 people need an organ transplant – 182 of whom are children – and 1,000 die every year while they wait for treatment.
As the law stands, adults who want to donate their organs after death have to opt in through the donor card system, but the Mirror’s petition calls for a change in the law which would mean consent was presumed unless someone opts out.
It is already the case in Wales, and Scotland is planning to do the same – giving patients like Max hope to survive.
And indeed, weeks after his plight was first highlighted, a donor was found and Max got his new heart - prompting his mum Emma to say Max owed his life to a ‘trinity of miracles’.
“I feel like there have been three miracles,” said Emma, who spent eight months travelling from her home in Winsford, Cheshire, to be at her son’s side in Newcastle .
“There is the miracle of keeping Max alive on his heart pump before the op. Years ago, that did not exist, and he would not have been here.
“The second is the heart transplant itself, and the fact he is recovering so well, touch wood.
“The third is the family who said, ‘Yes’ to organ donation.
“This all hinges on that family having the courage to say yes to saving Max’s life.
“They faced the most difficult circumstances to do that. I will never forget it. That trinity of miracles saved Max.”
After his transplant, Max was named as one of the most ‘inspirational children’ in the UK after his parents Emma and Paul were told he had been commended in the WellChild Awards.
They recognise young people living with exceptional health needs and the carers who look after them. Max made the short list from hundreds of nominations.
He received a certificate of commendation from the judges who felt he ‘was inspiring and so deserved to be recognised’.
Then, after eight months of hospital treatment, a beaming Max could not hide his excitement as he finally headed home.
But while packing his bags and saying farewell to staff, the nine-year-old heart transplant patient could not forget the other children who were not so lucky.
And he urged Prime Minister Theresa May to think of his tragic friend Ella Dee, eight, as he made a renewed plea to change the law on organ donation.
“I remember a little girl called Ella who was down on the ward. Then she got cannulas put in and she was taken to the high-dependency unit. I thought she must have got better. But she went upstairs and never came back,” he said.
“If Theresa May did change the law, there would be more organs for children like Ella. She’d be saving loads of lives. I would be surprised if the law is not changed – why would you want to bury your organs with you when they can save somebody?”
The latest development in the campaign saw mum Emma travel to Brighton this week to address the Labour Party conference to urge MPs to support The Mirror’s campaign.
She told delegates: “We were told that our son had a 33% chance of getting better, a 33% chance of requiring a heart transplant and a 33% chance of passing away.”
Emma spoke after veteran MP Geoffrey Robinson branded the transplant waiting list “death row”.
Later this year, a panel of judges from Trinity Mirror and ScottishPower will come up with shortlists for all five categories in the 2017 Your Champions awards scheme – Person, Young Person, Team, Volunteer and Sporting.
All finalists will be invited to a glittering gala, red carpet event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester on Friday, November 17 with Olympic silver and medallist Colin Jackson CBE on hand to present awards to this year’s successful champions who will be announced on the night.