VIDEO: Family push grief aside to launch campaign

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SHE was described by medical experts as a little fighter.

Sadly, the battle against a serious heart condition proved too much for tiny Miley Turbitt in her 14-week life.

Her death last November devastated her family, who had sat helplessly by her bedside, praying that a donor organ could be found.

But today, inspired by her “precious” fighting spirit, they are pushing their grief aside to launch In Miley’s Memory.

The campaign – backed by the Gazette – aims to encourage people of all ages to sign up to the organ donation register and save a life.

It asks people to sign a petition pushing for a change in the law, to make organ donation in England automatic, subject to an individual right of opt out.

Breaking down in tears, Miley’s mum Sharon Eckert said: “Nothing is going to bring Miley back, but we can make something good come out of this.”

Last year, in South Tyneside four people died while waiting for a transplant– two more than in 2008.

There are currently 20 people in the borough on the transplant list, waiting for organs including kidneys, livers and hearts.

Ms Eckert, 38, from Westmorland Road, South Shields, said: “People should ask themselves if they would be prepared to accept a donor organ to save their life or that of a loved one.

“If the answer is yes, they should also be saying yes to being a potential donor.”

Miley’s family – Sharon, dad Joe Turbitt, 52, sister Yasmin Eckert, 19, and brother Cole Turbitt, six – are now signed up to the organ donation register and hope her story will touch the hearts of South Tynesiders and encourage them to sign up too.

Download a petition here and print it out for your friends and family to sign.

Doctors had feared something was wrong with Miley when Sharon attended her 34-week scan.

And when she was born on August 8 at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital, their fears were confirmed and she was transferred to the city’s Freeman Hospital, where her family was told she was suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition which thickened her heart muscle and stopped it pumping blood effectively.

With a heart struggling to function, Miley was put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to provide cardiac and respiratory support, as doctors launched a desperate search across Europe to find a donor who could save her.

But as the weeks passed, Miley’s tiny body began to suffer and doctors had to take the painful decision to operate.

They had hoped fitting her with a Berlin heart – an artificial device typically used to bridge the time to a transplant – would give her more time and a better chance of survival as they waited for an organ.

But Miley’s fragile body gave up the fight during surgery.

Sharon added: “From the day she was born to the day she died, she did not have one day where she was not struggling.

“The doctors described her fight as one of us being at the gym every day, all day.

“She was bright as a button and was aware of everything that was going on around her.

“When Miley’s story appeared in the Gazette we had so much support and well-wishes from people, it really kept us going.

“This campaign really means a lot to us, as it feels like we are being able to keep Miley’s memory alive and that she is not just another statistic.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazlisa




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