PHA Raises Awareness About Child Organ Donation

Public Health Agency (PHA) launches powerful photographic exhibition ‘The Call’ to raise awareness of paediatric organ donation

Poignant and thought-provoking images of children waiting for ONE phone call which will change their lives will now be display for public viewing in Belfast. 

Arranged to coincide with the first anniversary of the change in law to an opt-out system of organ donation, the exhibition features Dáithí Mac Gabhann who has been waiting for the gift of a new heart since 2018. 

The 1st June also marks 6 years since he was added to the list. During this time his family have worked tirelessly to campaign for a move towards soft opt-out law and to promote organ donation.

The law means, in the event that organ donation is a possibility after you die, it will be considered that you agree to being an organ donor unless you choose to opt out or are in an excluded group.

Award-winning photographer Debbie Todd captured the images of the children in an exhibition created by Red Sky Foundation, a charity which raises vital funds for babies, children and adults, who are born with or develop heart conditions and who are in need of cardiac care, by providing lifelong support to them and their families.  

As part of its work in raising awareness of organ donation, the Public Health Agency has brought the exhibition to Northern Ireland so allowing Dáithí to be featured.

The powerful images depict that while some of the children sit patiently waiting for the phone call that will save their lives, others have already had their prayers answered offering a life-saving donor organ.  

The Public Health Agency is running a photo exhibition to help raise awareness about the need for paediatric transplants. Pictured is Dáithí who has been waiting for a translplant for 6 years. (Photo courtesy of the PHA).

They all have one thing in common… the hope for a bright future following a successful transplant.

Across the UK, there are over 7,000 people in need of a transplant and who are awaiting the gift of life through organ donation. 241 of these are children – waiting for ‘The Call’. 

There were just 35 paediatric donations in the last year in the UK (1 June 2023 to 16 May 2024), and only 158 paediatric transplants received by UK / NI patients.  

The acute need for organs for donation in children is demonstrated most clearly by those requiring an urgent heart transplant – their waiting period is 2.5 times longer than adults on average.

“The Call” exhibition collection arose from Debbie joining forces with Red Sky Foundation to use the images to trigger conversations around child organ donation. 

“After launching the exhibition in Sunderland, the exhibition images were also featured on a national billboard campaign, so raising awareness of the ‘gift of life’ offered by organ donation. 

“The images were seen across all major UK cities thanks to the Red Sky Foundation charity securing funding from Smart Outdoor as part of a national marketing campaign, with added support from telecoms super brand EE and Fujifilm. 

Speaking about the exhibition, Debbie said: “I hope that the photographs will encourage the many people who see them to discuss whether they would accept a donated organ to save their child.  

“And, if so, would they give the gift of life to another child?”

In preparation of the special exhibition Dáithí has been photographed holding the symbolic red telephone in his home city of Belfast, with his image then being displayed among the other children at the launch on Friday evening. 

The exhibition will stay in place for public viewing for 2 weeks at 2 Royal Avenue, Belfast which is a new cultural venue that Belfast City Council have transformed to play host to artistic experiences, events and workshops.  

Attending the launch are Red Sky Foundation founders Sergio and Emma Petrucci who both recently received MBE’s from King Charles for their services to health and communities in North East England.

Their work has been instrumental in helping people living with complex heart conditions and their charity has seen exponential growth which is now taking their organ donation campaign across the UK.  

Sergio explained the origins of The Call and added: “Our plan from the very beginning was to shine a light on families needing our help.

“We’re easing the pressure and making a positive change to how children needing organ donors will receive the best access to treatment and state of the art machinery.

“This latest part of our journey in Northern Ireland will give us further opportunities to increase awareness to help families in their times of need.”

Aidan Dawson, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency, congratulated all involved with the artwork and said: “The Call” will give hope to many families on the waiting list for an organ transplant. 

“The conversations generated by this exhibition will help to open up the sensitive topic of paediatric organ donation, and aims to encourage families to consider registering decisions for the whole family.”

Máirtín Mac Gabhann, father of 7-year old Dáithí understandably spoke with passion about the exhibition. He said: “We are incredibly proud that Dáithí is part of ‘The Call’ exhibition, highlighting the urgent need for paediatric organ donation.

“Our son Dáithí has been waiting for a new heart for six of his seven years — a heart-wrenching journey that has been filled with stress and uncertainty.

“Children like Dáithí wait around 2.5 times longer than adults for the gift of a transplant and face a higher risk of dying while on the waiting list.

“Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register as a whole family, regardless of age, is a courageous decision.

“While it may seem like a lot to ask, it is our only option as organ donation is the last resort and the only lifesaving gift that people on the waiting list can receive.

“We deeply thank the Red Sky Foundation for their support with The Call Exhibition and their crucial work in raising awareness about paediatric organ donation.

“Though Dáithí is now featured in ‘The Call’, our family eagerly hopes for the day we receive that life-changing call.

“We have been campaigning for years now around organ donation and firmly believe that together, we can all make a huge difference and give children like Dáithí a chance at a brighter future.”

You can register an organ donation decision for everyone in your family at:  

Whatever you decide, remember discuss it with loved ones. 

  • To find out more about organ donation, the law change, or to opt in or out, visit: or call the dedicated advice line on 0300 123 23 23.
  • *Those groups excluded from the new deemed consent legislation include:
    • Those under the age of 18
    • People who lack the mental capacity to understand the change in law
    • Visitors to Northern Ireland
    • Temporary residents
  • Families will always be involved before organ donation goes ahead
  • Only half of families agree to donation if they don’t know their loved one’s decision, but this rises to 9 out of 10 if they know their loved one wanted to donate
  • Whatever you decide, the best thing you can do is talk with your loved ones to give them the certainty they need to support your decision
  • Each year in Northern Ireland around 10-15 people die while awaiting a transplant
  • There are 153 people in NI on the waiting list (as at 22 May 2024)
  • In the UK, there are 241 children awaiting a transplant (117 Kidney, 37 Heart, 61 Liver, 11 lung and 15 other)
  • There are around 5 children in NI on the waiting list for a transplant
  • Number of paediatric donations in the UK (1 June 2023 to 16 May 2024) – 35
  • Number of paediatric transplants received by UK / NI patients – 158 in total
  • 90% of people in Northern Ireland support organ donation
  • Over 56% of people have signed the Organ Donor Register as at 22 May 2024:
    • Opt-in: 1,053,541 (55% of population)
    • Opt-out: 22697 (1.2% of population)
  • Only 1% of people die in circumstances where donation is possible, therefore every donation is precious
  • You can become a living donor:

Across the UK, more than 1,000 people each year donate a kidney or part of their liver while they are still alive to a relative, friend or even someone they do not know.

The most commonly donated organ by a living person is a kidney. Part of a liver can also be transplanted from a living donor to help someone in need of a liver transplant.