Max Johnson says ‘I did not think I would make it’ in moving film about transplant

Max Johnson says ‘I did not think I would make it’ in moving film about transplant


Mirror campaigner Max Johnson will tell medics: “I did not think I would make it” in a moving film about his heart transplant.

Max was filmed as he celebrated his 13th birthday in January.

His story, which inspired England’s new organ donor law, is being shown at an NHS conference tomorrow.

Max and the family of his heart donor Keira Ball tell experts, doctors and nurses about the importance of England’s new ‘opt out’ scheme named in their honour.

Max, filmed at his home in Winsford, Cheshire, says of his transplant: “I thought about four years ago that I might not make it.

“It is nice but it is crazy when you think about what happened four years ago. It has been a bit rocky but I feel great at the moment. I have been given a second chance of life.” He adds: “Thank you for sharing mine and Keira’s story around the world.”

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In a moving film to accompany his video message, Max admits that just before a donor was found, he was ‘ready to die’.

“Back then, I did not think I would make it,” he adds. The parents of his donor Keira Ball, who died in a car accident aged nine, tell of their pride in their kind-hearted little girl’s final gift.

Her organs helped to save four lives. Her dad Joe, of Barnstaple, Devon, recalled the moment when specialist nurses asked him if he had considered organ donation.

He said: “I did not feel any pressure. I just looked at Keira, and I was sure if Keira had been asked, she would have said yes. That was just the way that she was.”

Proud mum Loanna added: “It was tragic, heart wrenching that we lost her, but unfortunately nothing could be done for Keira. The fact that she has gone on to save four lives is amazing.”

In footage filmed shortly after Max’s heart transplant at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, he vividly describes his fight for life. “I honestly was ready to die, I did not think I would make it,” he says.

“I hugged mum and dad and thought ‘this is the last hug with my parents.”

His mum Emma, 51, adds: “It just felt so unfair because he was such a sparky little boy. A mechanical device kept him relatively safe while he waited for a new heart. Our thoughts about the donor at the time was just an overwhelming sense of deep gratitude. That they thought of others at such a difficult moment.”

Max is seen reading a letter from then Prime Minister Theresa May – written after she read his story in the Mirror – in which she tells him of her plans for the new organ donor law.

It was initially going to be called ‘Max’s Law’. But Max was determined to remember his donor too.

“I remember asking my mum and dad ‘could it be Max and Keira’s Law?’ and I am so happy that they have done it,” he says in the film.

“She has not saved one life, she has saved four lives. She is a hero.

“I would say to everyone talk to each other and ask what decision will it be?

“Let your organs go to waste and just decay (when you die) – or save a few people’s lives?”

The film is part of the Congress Live 2021 event hosted by Dr Dale Gardiner, the UK National Lead for Organ Donation. It will include a panel of UK donation and transplant leaders, telling medics from around the world about the Mirror-backed ‘opt-out’ law.

Our Change the Law for Life crusade helped bring in the new system last May in England where adults are understood to be donors when they die, unless they state otherwise.


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