Saturday 23 November 2019

Meadhbh recovering after marathon 14-hour op

Meadhbh McGivern was recovering in a London hospital last night after her marathon 14-hour liver transplant operation. Edel O'Connell reports

Meadhbh McGivern at home in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim with her mother Assumpta in July
Meadhbh McGivern at home in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim with her mother Assumpta in July
King's College Hospital in London where the operation took place

IT was 10pm and Meadhbh McGivern, exhausted and wracked with pain, was just about to go bed.

Then the call she had been waiting on for two years came through -- again.

Meadhbh, who desperately needed a liver transplant operation, was told that a viable organ had become available and she could be operated on in London within hours.

This morning, Meadhbh is recuperating at the famous King's College Hospital in London after undergoing a complex and intricate surgical procedure which lasted most of yesterday.

Her parents waited anxiously as the surgery dragged on all day. But just before 9pm after 14 hours on the operating table, her surgery was complete and Meadhbh was moved to the intensive care unit in a stable condition.

She is expected to take several weeks to recuperate at the hospital, which carries out more than 700 transplants a year.

Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Meadhbh's exhausted but delighted father Joe -- who had not slept in more than 48 hours -- said the transplant would give Meadhbh "a quality of life she hasn't had for years".

The operation gave new hope to a family whose lives have been wracked by recent disappointment.

"I just hope the same thing doesn't happen to me again," said a frightened Meadhbh on Wednesday night as the family prepared for their second attempt to get to London. They gathered up the suitcases that had been packed and ready to go.

One lingering and warm embrace from her sister and Meadhbh was out of the door.

As excitement ran through the McGivern household, the teenager quietly steeled herself for disappointment.

Just two months ago, she had received the very same call promising that her agonising wait was over.

But on the night of July 2, after more than eight hours of frantic calls and disorganised chaos, Meadhbh was told she had lost her chance -- she would not make it to London on time.

The organ she had waited on for more than two years was given to another recipient as air transport could not be co-ordinated quickly enough.

The 14-year-old who never complains had cried her eyes out all the way home to Leitrim on that fateful night in July.

The schoolgirl had the unenviable title of the longest paediatric patient waiting for a transplant in this country, and at times it seemed endless.

Yesterday's second chance operation was possible because this time the plan to get Meadhbh on a plane to London went like clockwork.

She boarded an ambulance outside the family home in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, which was escorted by gardai as it brought her to Baldonnel airbase in Dublin.

The first leg of an emergency journey to King's College Hospital to undergo her liver transplant was complete.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Sligo Coast Guard helicopter, which had recently returned from a training exercise, was put on standby.

Soon after, a government jet was sourced and private air ambulance operators Aero-medevac put its pilots on standby just in case -- everyone was ready this time, for any eventuality.

Meadhbh had recently spent eight days hooked up to a drip at Crumlin Children's Hospital in Dublin when her pain became unmanageable at home. But she breathed a sigh of relief when she finally boarded the Air Corps Learjet, which departed for Heathrow at 12.05am yesterday.

The family landed in London at 12.50am and were taken by ambulance to King's College, arriving at about 2.30am.

After a sleepless few hours, the teenager was prepared and brought to theatre at 7am, where a team of leading surgeons began the complex procedure.

Her father, who was at Meadhbh's bedside at the London hospital with his wife Assumpta, said: "When the call came through we thought 'Is it for real?'.

"Meadhbh was delighted and overjoyed. Until she got on the plane she did not really believe that she'd make it. Once we were in the air, then she knew."

Only days ago he had spoke of his anguish that he and his wife were forced to stand by and watch their daughter's health deteriorate further.

Before the long-awaited call came on Wednesday night, Meadhbh was bed-bound at home and on medication to control her pain. She was unable to return to school earlier this month with her friends.

Meadhbh's transportation was one of two simultaneous missions the Air Corps completed early yesterday.

In an earlier mission, a HSE team travelled from Dublin to Cork to pick up another organ for transplantation.

Irish Independent

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