Children's clinic a heartfelt tribute to transplant pioneer
IT is a fitting legacy for the man who is synonymous with mending hearts in this country.
Yesterday, the late surgeon Maurice Neligan, who performed Ireland's first heart transplant, was honoured at the opening of a new heart clinic at the Mater Hospital.
His widow Pat and Health Minister James Reilly together opened the Maurice Neligan Congenital Heart Clinic, which will specialise in the care of children born with heart defects.
During his career as a cardiologist, Dr Neligan, who died just over a year ago, carried out up to 15,000 open-heart operations, many on children.
And yesterday, his little grandson Daniel, and his daughter Lisa and his wife, both of whom are doctors, saw his life's work honoured with the naming of the new unit.
As he pulled back the velvet curtain covering the commemorative plaque, Dr Reilly quipped: "To a man who may have broken a few hearts when he was a young man, he fixed many more".
Prof Neligan performed the first coronary artery bypass graft in Ireland in 1975 and Ireland's first heart transplant in 1985, following in the footsteps of the great Dr Christian Barnard in South Africa. He was consultant cardiac surgeon at the Mater Hospital from 1971 until 2009 and at Crumlin children's hospital from 1975 to 2002.
Yesterday Dr Reilly made a personal tribute to his friend and colleague describing him as a "leading light in surgery", a "great cardiac surgeon and a great Irishman".
Heart Children Ireland, a voluntary support group for those affected by congenital heart disorders, helped raise over €50,000 to convert a former balcony off the Cardiac Ward in the Mater Hospital into a consultation area for teens and young adults who have recently transferred from Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.
Lesley Osborne (37), one of Dr Neligan's first patients, was born with a heart condition which was "severe and life-threatening", she said.
"His skill... enabled me to recover and lead a normal life... and this tale is replicated by hundreds of children who owe their lives to this great man," she said.