Sunday 21 January 2018

Luke makes medical history as he gets life-saving transplant

Luke Martindale (11) of Dromahaire, Co Leitrim
Luke Martindale (11) of Dromahaire, Co Leitrim
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A young Irish boy who had a life-saving liver transplant in the UK has made it into the medical record books.

Luke Martindale (11) of Dromahaire, Co Leitrim, needed an urgent liver transplant in King's College Hospital in London - but he became so unwell that doctors, who had a suitable organ to give him, could not operate because he would not survive.

However, medics experimented by hooking him up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine which supports the heart and lungs when a patient's own organs start to fail.

It proved a miracle for Luke, who was able to buy time and within two hours he was strong enough to have the transplant.

It was the first time that the powerful technology was used in this way and doctors now hope it will also help other patients who might otherwise die on the waiting list before getting a liver.

Luke's delighted mother Norma said: "I have my little boy back."

She recalled how he collapsed while playing at school last January and was rushed to hospital. His condition deteriorated and after being transferred to Dublin, doctors diagnosed liver failure and he was airlifted to London.

"He was so sick, and everything happened so quickly. He was in intensive care at King's Hospital," she said.

"Before he went on the ECMO machine, he had turned from yellow into an orange and green colour.

"The fact he is here with us now is amazing. We are so grateful to the team that looked after him, but more importantly the donor, whose generous decision to donate made this possible."

Dr Emir Hoti, liver transplant surgeon in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin where adults receive liver transplants, said Irish children who needed the operation had to travel abroad. St Vincent's Hospital does not have an ECMO machine, but one could play a role in the future care of adult patients waiting for a transplant. Dublin's Mater Hospital has an ECMO machine which is usually used as a life-sustaining measure to allow the lungs and heart time to heal.

The difference in the case of Luke is that it was used as a 'bridge' to transplantation when the liver was failing. He remained on the ECMO machine for 11 days after surgery.

Dr Georg Auzinger, a consultant in liver intensive care at King's College Hospital who led the ECMO team which treated Luke, said his case could lead to other lives being saved.

"It shows that patients in acute liver failure can benefit from this technology," Dr Auzinger said.

"It is hugely significant."

How machine bought brave boy valuable time

Luke Martindale was in danger of dying because he was too weak for a liver transplant.

Statistics show 15pc-20pc of patients on the liver tranplant list die before getting an organ.

Doctors had a liver to transplant into Luke but could not operate.

In a medical first they attached him to a ECMO machine to support his heart and lungs. It was a last resort and had not been tried before.

Luke rallied and within two hours was deemed well enough for surgery.

The transplant was successful and doctors kept Luke on the machine for another 11 days.

Luke is now back to his own lively self and doctors are excited for the future.

Other waiting-list patients may also be able to buy time on the machine.

Irish Independent

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