BIRTHDAYS are a big deal in Aaron Vincent’s house.
Most schoolboys might get Lego, a football strip or even a PlayStation game.
But Aaron had the best present of all – a new heart.
Three years ago, time was running out for the Easington Lane lad. He was relying on a mechanical heart to survive after being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition.
Stuck in a hospital bed, doctors told mum Andrea Bennet that he desperately needed a transplant if he was to stand any chance of survival.
Six months later, on his fourth birthday, the search was over and the schoolboy underwent an eight hour operation that transformed his life.
Today, as he celebrates turning seven, he is looking forward to a bright future – and today’s Sunderland match.
Andrea, 37, said: “We are heading to the game to see Sunderland play Fulham. Aaron’s a big Sunderland fan so he’s really excited about it.”
In 2009, when Aaron first became unwell, doctors thought he may be suffering asthma attacks, prompting a series of tests.
But an ultrasound examination at Sunderland Royal Hospital revealed the youngster had an enlarged heart and he was immediately transferred to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.
Andrea, also mum to Nicole, 18, Sophie, 14, and Callum, 13, was told her son desperately needed the new organ if he was to survive.
The family put their lives on hold until a heart was found.
Andrea said: “It was just days before his fourth birthday that I received the call I’d been praying for.
“They told us there was a heart available. Then they confirmed the operation was going ahead. I remember he was in surgery for eight hours – and it was the longest eight hours of my life.”
Aaron is now thriving and enjoying life at Easington Lane Primary School.
“He’s in good health and seems to be doing well; I can’t believe this all happened three years ago.”
Andrea was quick to encourage more Wearsiders to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register so that more lives can be saved.
She said: “It’s incredible what a difference it can make – giving the gift of life is surely the best birthday present there could ever be.
“Aaron would not be where he is, we would not be where we are, today without the register, so I’d like to see as many people as possible signing up.”
l Join the NHS Organ Donor Register by contacting 0300 123 23