Saturday 20 January 2018

Mother's organ donor plea as son awaits new heart

Maria Coyne at the Freeman Hospital with her son Gavin. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Maria Coyne at the Freeman Hospital with her son Gavin. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Elaine Keogh

The mother of a 10-year-old boy waiting for a life-saving heart transplant is urging Irish families to start talking about organ donation.

"You could save a life," Maria Coyne, from Drumcondra in Dublin, said.

Maria has been waiting in Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, England, with her son Gavin since he was diagnosed with a rare heart condition last November.

"We are [here] while we wait for a suitable heart for Gavin. We are here because this service isn't offered in Ireland," she said.

When Gavin fell ill last November, Maria thought he was suffering from a tummy bug.

"His breathing got shallow and fast, and he told me he felt like he had asthma, which was a very strange thing for him to say."

His condition persisted and she brought him to the GP. Gavin was referred to Temple Street Children's Hospital as a precaution.

There, he had a chest X-ray and a heart scan. Maria was then told her son was being transferred, under Garda escort, to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, where he was to be admitted to the intensive care unit.

Doctors had discovered that Gavin had severe dilated cardiomyopathy with heart failure. It is very rare and the cause is not known.

"Gavin spent eight weeks in Crumlin hospital but his condition deteriorated to the point of needing some sort of mechanical intervention not offered for paediatric heart patients in Ireland."

A bed became available in Freeman hospital and Gavin was airlifted on Thursday, January 18.

Due to his condition deteriorating further last month, he underwent open-heart surgery as doctors fitted him with a left ventricular assist device. It is acting as his de-facto heart.

Maria said for her, husband Thomas and Gavin's sisters Rachel (17) and Jessica (15), the procedure "was the scariest eight hours of our lives".

The HSE will cover the costs of one parent accompanying a sick child but anything else must be paid for by the family.


For Gavin to survive, "we have to wait for somebody else's tragedy and it is so horrible to think about that", his mum said.

"Until now, I did not think about the importance of donating your organs.

"I would encourage all families to have the discussion because their organs can give other people, including children like Gavin, a chance of life."

To help Gavin, visit

Irish Independent

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