From the Heart: A Tonight Special

Surgeons perform a life-saving transplant, but organs are not always available to those that need them Credit: ITV / Tonight

Right now, ten thousand people across the UK are waiting for an organ transplant.

A thousand of them will die waiting this year.

In this Tonight Special, Jonathan Maitland meets the families for whom a desperate shortage of organ donors has life and death consequences as they tell their stories, ‘From the Heart’…

First up we revisit the case of 20 year old Will Pope. Back in November, Tonight filmed Will seriously ill in hospital in Middlesex waiting for a heart transplant. He had just months to live and there was no guarantee a new heart would be found for him in time.

Luckily – just as things were getting desperate – Will did receive a life-saving transplant. Tonight reporter, Jonathan Maitland visits Will and his mum, Rosie, in intensive care three weeks after the operation.

Will Pope recovering post op Credit: ITV / Tonight

Ali Carter, a 52 year old mother of three from Eastbourne contacted the Tonight programme after seeing Will’s story. Her own son, Lee, died in 2000 following a car crash. At the time, Ali bravely decided to donate all of Lee’s organs but couldn’t bear to let go of his heart. After watching Will’s plight, she’s come to regret her decision and tells us why.

We also meet five year old Aaron McAleese who was born with his heart the wrong way round. He’s been on the transplant waiting list since the end of last year and Tonight was there when his new heart was delivered to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle – all the way from Germany.

Aaron McAleese crosses his fingers as he's prepared for surgery Credit: ITV / Tonight

We filmed the operation, which took more than nine hours to perform, as well as Aaron’s recovery in hospital afterwards. This brave little boy is now doing so well that he’s hoping to be discharged home in the next few days.

Sadly, the shortage of donors means that not everyone gets the transplant they so desperately need. Shelley & Lee Wealleans talk to Tonight about their son, two year old Mackenzie, who died in hospital while waiting for a new heart. Eighteen months on, their grief is still overwhelming.

For the people who do get new organs, their lives are not just saved but often transformed completely. 25 year old Marcus Mehta underwent a life-saving liver transplant four years ago when his own began to fail unexpectedly. He’s now dedicated his life to giving something back to the people who helped to save him, and is training to be a doctor.

Reporter, Jonathan Maitland, also busts some of the common myths surrounding organ donation in a personal journey that takes him all the way from being a squeamish non-donor to signing up to the organ donor register.

Tonight reporter Jonathan Maitland has signed up to the organ donor register Credit: ITV / Tonight

If you’d like to find out more information about organ donation then visit ITV's From the Heart page here.

From The Heart: A Tonight Special is on ITV tonight at 8pm.