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Thursday 26 April 2018

'Eleven months of waiting for the phone to ring -- it was terrible, had my chance gone?' - Meadhbh

'I will never forget July 2, 2011, the night we couldn't get to England. My heart was pounding as we waited to get on the helicopter, then we were going home again...I felt my chance was gone, the waiting was terrible, the pain didn't help either. I wished the summer would end and that it would all go away. Earlier this year Meadhbh McGivern (14) missed her chance of a liver transplant when authorities failed to organise an airlift to London on time. Now, two months after a second chance, she tells her story

Meadhbh reading some of her many messages of support from well wishers as she recovered from transplant surgery at home yesterday
Meadhbh reading some of her many messages of support from well wishers as she recovered from transplant surgery at home yesterday
Meadhbh smiling aged seven
Meadhbh with her parents Joe and Assumpta
Meadhbhb aged eight
Again again aged seven in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim
Meadhbh McGivern at two years of age playing with her toys

I WILL never forget July 2, 2011, the night we couldn't get to England. It had been such a lovely evening, one of the few where the sun shone all summer.

We were about to have a barbecue when the call came through to tell me there was a suitable liver. I remember going to Sligo Airport and somebody constantly ringing dad's mobile.

We were going fast. I was excited -- and scared. I was thinking of all the things I could do with my friends after the transplant. Then we arrived at Strandhill, my heart was pounding as we waited to get on the helicopter. Then we were going home again. I cried so much. I knew something was wrong by 9pm. Dad kept saying: "It shouldn't take this long". He was ringing everywhere looking for a plane. I could not believe it. I cried a lot every time I thought about it -- I felt my chance was gone. I felt miserable.

Eleven months of waiting for the phone to ring, and pain -- then gone. The waiting was terrible. The pain didn't help either. Why me? I had suffered enough: why did I have to suffer more? I remember dad's phone always ringing -- always talking -- radio and papers and stuff. I'm home now and it's great. The pain is gone. I couldn't do anything: always pain and feeling tired. I was fed up of it all. I missed my friends at school so much. I hope to be back in school after Christmas.

My problems started when I was very young. I started having bleeds in my tummy. My spleen was getting bigger from the backflow of blood because my liver was not working as it should. Little veins started growing to deal with all this backflow and then would rupture.

I would be brought to theatre in Crumlin Hospital. I used to hate it when I woke up. My throat really hurt. I was in and out of Crumlin regularly. I remember having to stay back in fourth class in national school because I missed a lot of school because of the pain. Terrible pains.

I missed my old class when I stayed back. I was on a lot of medication, morning and night. I couldn't even ride a bike in case I fell and ruptured my spleen. I remember birthday parties, everyone on the trampoline except me. I was always tired. I found it hard sometimes doing my homework. .

In 2007, I was sent to King's College Hospital in London for assessment for liver transplant. My spleen had really grown. The doctors told me it was one of the biggest they had ever seen. I was finally placed on the transplant list in August 2010. By November I was beginning to get a lot of infections and my energy was really dropping. Every time I got an infection the transplant team had to be contacted and they would decide whether to leave me on the list or take me off until I was better again. I was really sick over Christmas.

I went back to school in January but had to stop a few weeks into term.We knew that if I continued to get infections I might not be well enough if a liver became available. Soon, the pain came -- and stayed. The doctors said that my liver was deteriorating. Eventually I had to go on morphine. My immune system was so low I could not really go out. After I missed the first transplant I had to go into Crumlin in August because my stomach pain was so bad. I was there for nine days. I often wondered would my transplant ever happen. The summer had passed and everyone was back at school, except me. I was beginning to feel very different from everybody else. I worried about how it all might end.

Then on Wednesday, September 14, dad took a call at around 10pm. I had just taken my night medication and was getting ready to go to bed. I will never forget the excitement, but I couldn't but remember what happened the last time. We travelled to Baldonnell with a garda escort. I was excited but scared as well. I knew when the plane had taken off that this time it was for real. There was no going back now. I remember mam started to cry beside me.

Dad caught her hand and I will always remember what he said: "Cinderella will go to the ball this time." I wasn't exactly sure what he meant at the time but I know now.

After landing at Heathrow we were taken by ambulance to King's College Hospital I was nervous and tired. Then the time came. I was scared now. I held mam and dad so tight. I was never really scared thinking about it before. I used to pray every night that I would get my transplant. Now it was for real.

When I woke up I saw mam and dad there. Lots of tubes and monitors. I was in the high dependency unit at that stage.A week or so after my transplant. I was still on morphine.

I was on a lot of different drips. I was on a lot of medication -- four times every day. I am still on that regime. I wasn't sure how I actually felt but knew I felt different: for the better.

Irish Independent

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