Tuesday 24 April 2018

Family joy as Leitrim teen Meadhbh finally gets transplant

Meadhbh McGivern. Photo Brian Farrell
Meadhbh McGivern. Photo Brian Farrell
Meadhbh at home in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim with her mother Assumpta. Photo Brian Farrell
Meadhbh McGivern with her father Joe. Photo Brian Farrell
Meadhbh with her parents Joe and Assumpta. Photo Brian Farrell

Independent.ie reporters

THE family of Leitrim liver transplant teenager Meadbh McGivern were eagerly awaiting her emergence from theatre this evening.

She is expected out of surgery later this evening after her long-awaited operation in London.

Fourteen-year-old Meadhbh and her family were flown to England last night by the Air Corps.

The operation began at 7am this morning.

Meadhbh, who has a rare liver condition, was called for transplantation to Kings College Hospital in London on July 2 of this year, but the authorities handling her transportation failed to get her there on time.

Today Meadhbh’s family are waiting in King's Hospital London as she undergoes a liver transplant – the operation can take up to eight hours.

Speaking on RTE Radio's Today with Pat Kenny this morning, Maedhbh's father Joe said "We've waited a long time for this moment. Hopefully it'll give Meadhbh a quality of life she hasn't had for a number of years now and that she'll enjoy what's left of her teens.

"She could be a hard one to hold down once she get's this new liver."

Mr McGivern said the journey from Leitrim to London was "seamless throughout". He described how the family received a call shortly after 10pm last night to say that a suitable liver was available in King's hospital in London.

"Once again we swung our plan into action. We had a garda escort up to Baldonnel and then flew by the Air Corps Lear jet to Heathrow.

"We arrived at the hospital some time after 2.30am. Meadhbh was being prepared from 4am and went down to theatre just after 7am."

He said Meadhbh was absolutely elated when the news came through but that she was also apprehensive. "She said 'Let's hope the same thing doesn't happen again'."

She has spent more than two years on a waiting list -- the longest a pediatric patient has ever waited for a transplant in this country.

She was only discharged home last Saturday after spending eight days hooked up to an IV morphine drip at Crumlin Hospital when her condition worsened to the point that her parents could no longer manage her pain at home.

Earlier this week her father Joe has expressed his anguish that he and his wife are being forced to stand by and watch their daughter's health deteriorate further.

Before the long awaited call that there was a suitable liver came last night, Meadhbh was bedbound at home and on morphine to control her pain. She was unable to return to school earlier this month with her friends.

A HIQA report into the circumstances of Meadhbh's aborted transplant, published last month, criticised the fact that there was no single authority in Ireland tasked with organising emergency air transport for those who may need it.

Now, more than two months on from the scandal, the Department of Health have said a "draft implementation plan" for the setting up of a national centre to co-ordinate all ground and air travel for transplant recipients was submitted to HIQA last Friday for review.

However, the department did not provide a timeframe as to when the centre would be up and running.

On the night of July 2, Crumlin Children's Hospital had sourced a private flight to bring the teenager to London for her transplant -- but ultimately it was unable to pursue its plans.

Meadhbh's chance at a new life was lost because a Coast Guard helicopter was sourced and those in charge of her transport underestimated the time it would take this aircraft to reach London. The donor organ was given to another recipient.

The Department of Health said it has now appointed the National Ambulance Service (NAS) as the single point through which requests for an aircraft for transportation are made to either the Air Corps or Coast Guard.

It added that the Air Corps and Coast Guard have also committed to confirming aircraft availability to the NAS within 15 minutes of a request for transportation.

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