A YOUNG North Wexford girl who received a heart transplant at the age of just five months went on a dream trip to Disney World recently, thanks to golfing star Graeme Mcdowell and Aer Lingus.
Molly D'arcy (7), and her sister Ellie (3), from Hollyfort, couldn't contain their excitement as they met Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and all the Disney pals at the Magic Kingdom and the other Disney World parks in Orlando. For their parents Inez and Nicholas, it was also a dream trip.
A highlight of the visit was spending time with Graeme Mcdowell, who organised for seven families to go on the trip through his G-mac Foundation, which also supports children's medical research.
The former US Open Champion organised for children who have had major heart surgery through Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, and their families, to travel to Florida for four days. In total, some 35 people went on the trip, and the flights were sponsored by Aer Lingus.
'We were delighted,' said Inez D'arcy. 'It was the holiday of a lifetime. You always say it's somewhere you'd like to go, but for it to actually happen was wonderful. The kids loved it. They had a ball.' The youngest member of the family, Ruby, who is just seven months, didn't get to travel this time.
Inez said the trip was organised by Graeme's management company, Horizon Sports Management. He sponsored the accommodation, the park tickets and some spending money. She paid tribute to Graeme Mcdowell, the G-mac Foundation, Horizon Sports Management, Aer Lingus, and Fionnuala, Nicola and Joe from Crumlin Hospital for all their support.
She said that Graeme spent time with the families while they were in Florida. 'He took time to personally meet the families,' she said. 'He is just so normal. Molly was so excited to meet him.'
At the age of five months in 2005, Molly was one of the youngest ever babies in Ireland to receive the gift of a new heart. Molly had a cardiomyopathy, and her heart was never going to recover. A transplant was carried out Great Ormonde Street Children's Hospital in London.
'The first two years were the toughest part,' said Inez. 'Because she's on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life, she's susceptible to illnesses and viruses.'
Fortunately, Molly is doing well, and goes to Dublin for blood tests every two to three weeks; sees a consultant every few months; and goes to London once a year to see a consultant there. She could need another transplant when she gets older.
Otherwise she largely leads a normal life and goes to school. The family in the past have urged people to carry organ donor cards, and continue to do so. 'It's given Molly a second chance,' said Inez.
Nicholas recalled that before Molly had her operation, she looked healthy, and they had to take the doctors at their word, that an operation was urgently needed. 'We went to Great Ormonde Street and got on the list,' he said. 'Five months passed, and then we met them for the second time. We arrived home at 9 p.m. from London, and at 12 midnight, when we were getting into bed, the buzzer went, and we were in Baldonnell by 2.30 a.m.'
Dr Colin Mcmahon from Crumlin went with the family to London. 'He went over, organised the jet, everything, and he was back in Dublin the next morning ready for work at 9 a.m.' recalled Nicholas, adding that Dr Orla Franklin was also extremely supportive.
'You have to trust the doctors 110 per cent,' he said. 'We were told this was the only way out.'
Fortunately, things have worked well for Molly, and she turned seven on March 3. 'Molly was so lucky to get a heart because she was so young,' said Nicholas. 'She got what was called a mismatch heart, because children under a certain age can take a mismatch heart, but she's on antirejection drugs.'
'A transplant can last from three weeks to 16 to 17 years, but the medicines and research are so much better now and work an awful lot better now,' he continued. He said he couldn't emphasise enough the importance of carrying an organ donor card.
'In so many countries, it's a given on passports and licences,' he said. 'The amount of lives you can save through organ donations is incredible, but 25 per cent of people pass away waiting on a transplant.'
He said they often think of the family that made the decision to donate the heart that saved Molly's life, and they were able to write a letter to be forwarded to them. 'For parents to make such a decision at such a terrible time is remarkable,' he said. 'That's why it's so important to have a donor card. If it's what the individual wishes, then they more or less have to agree with their last wishes. Make it known you'd like to be a donor, or carry a card.'