'Children are falling through the cracks, but Simon Harris ignored me' - Grieving mum whose son (10) died
The mother of a boy who died in a British hospital waiting for a heart transplant says Health Minister Simon Harris has "ignored" her email plea to prevent other children "falling through the cracks".
Maria Coyne's son, Gavin, was 10 when he passed away hundreds of miles away in the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, on February 20 this year.
Maria (44), her husband Tom (44) and Gavin's two sisters, nursing student Rachel (18) and schoolgirl Jessica (16), had to catch flights back and forth to see the young boy as he grew increasingly ill.
After the tragic death, it took 10 days for the schoolboy's body to be returned home by ferry and the family paid for his removal from Belfast port to his Dublin home.
The mother wrote to Mr Harris hoping he would be able to help protect other families from having to fork out thousands of euro on travel to the UK and to ensure all children, including those who die, are taken home by the Air Corps.
"I sent an email to Minister Harris on October 4 and still no response," Ms Coyne said.
"He can continue to sit in a room with his experts but there's no one more expert than me and my family on the cracks in the health system for transplant patients - we've been through it and we need to fill the cracks but we need the minister to help us."
She added: "I'm annoyed Minister Harris hasn't answered me because this is an important issue. My son died and I can't bring him back, but I can help others."
The Holy Trinity schoolboy from Clarehall, Dublin, had been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy - a condition in which the heart's ability to pump blood is decreased - in November 2016.
Gavin had just come back from a family holiday to Florida when he became ill. The family had no prior knowledge of any health complaints.
In the email pleading for Mr Harris's assistance for other child transplant patients, Ms Coyne wrote how she and her family had felt "cold and alone" when Gavin was seriously ill.
"I'd hate to think another family would have to face what we did, especially at such a stressful and traumatic time."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the minister "actively strived" to ensure a "robust service" is in place for the "timely transfer" of patients to the UK when organs are available.