Wednesday 13 November 2019

Liver transplant teen: Meadhbh family horrified she has to fly home commercial

Edel O'Connell

THE father of a schoolgirl who underwent a liver transplant in London said he was shocked to discover a state aircraft will not be provided to transport his daughter home.

Schoolgirl Meadhbh McGivern (14), from Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, was flown to London on a government Learjet on Wednesday night so she could undergo a liver transplant.

Meadhbh then underwent a complex, 14-hour operation at King's College Hospital in London on Thursday morning.

She has said a few words to her parents since her transplant and last night she was taken off a ventilator. Her father Joe McGivern and mother Assumpta are keeping a bedside vigil.

Meadhbh previously missed out on a chance for a new liver in July of this year when the authorities failed to organise her transport on time, and she was the Irish paediatric patient who spent the longest time ever on a transplant list.

This time the schoolgirl -- who received her second chance call at 10pm on Wednesday evening -- was flown to London in 45 minutes by jet from Baldonnell military airbase in west Dublin.

Mr McGivern said he was "absolutely horrified" to discover Meadhbh would not be returned home on a state aircraft when she recovers -- but instead is expected to board a commercial flight with hundreds of other passengers.

"I could not believe it when I heard there will be no option for Meadhbh to be flown home by the State. You are talking about people who have undergone life-threatening surgery and who have severely compromised immune systems getting on a Ryanair plane full of people.

"I just won't allow that to happen to Meadhbh, not after everything she has been through. I know the Air Corps personnel would be more than happy to return her, but the whole thing is bound up in bureaucratic red tape," he said.

A report by health watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), conducted in the aftermath of Meadhbh's failed transportation was also critical of the HSE's Treatment Abroad Scheme -- which it described as "excessively bureaucratic" and led to parents funding return commercial flights with an immuno-compromised child following surgery abroad.

Mr McGivern said he would write to Health Minister James Reilly to highlight the issue.


"It is outrageous that transplant recipients are expected to sit in an airport for two hours in a weak and compromised state before boarding an aircraft where they could pick up anything. It is unbelievable," Mr McGivern said.

In response a HSE spokeswoman said it was "working to implement the recommendations of the HIQA report".

As Meadhbh's case is particularly complex it took a team of experts at the renowned King's College Hospital 14 hours in total to transplant her new organ.

Meadhbh suffered a series of bleeds during the operation and had to undergo many transfusions while her anxious parents waited. "It was the longest and darkest day of our lives, it was endless, we were so worried for her," Mr McGivern told the Irish Independent.

The schoolgirl is now conscious but in a serious amount of pain, which her parents say is very difficult to witness.

"The poor thing cried all night last night and she has a very high pain threshold so you know she is in the worst kind of pain. It is terrible to watch," said Mr McGivern.

He said he hoped his second daughter Ciara will be able to fly to London on Thursday to see Meadhbh.

"I put Meadhbh on a Sykpe link-up call to Ciara last night. I knew it would be difficult for her to see her sister so ill, but she was desperate to see her," he said.

For now the McGiverns are taking turns at Meadhbh's bedside in order to keep a 24-hour presence at their daughter's bedside.

"We are taking comfort from the large number of Irish staff at the hospital who have dropped by to see us over the past few days," Mr McGivern said.

Irish Independent

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