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'Miracle' donor helps teen get operation

A TEENAGER is recovering in hospital after undergoing the first stage of major surgery to correct a severe back deformity -- all thanks to the kindness of a donor.

The mother of Jason Slevin (18) spoke yesterday of the pain he endured for three years while waiting for his spinal surgery.

Jason, from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, was recovering in the intensive unit of the Blackrock Clinic after undergoing the operation on Saturday.

"He used to be in pain all day. One of his lungs was being crushed because of the curvature," his mother Terena explained.

The operation was only made possible after a kind donor came forward to pay for the theatre and other facilities.

Orthopaedic surgeon Pat Kiely and his team are operating on Jason for free and an Irish-owned distributor donated the expensive implants to straighten his back.

Mr Kiely revealed how he had nine other donated implants worth up to €20,000 which could be used to help other youngsters on waiting lists who are in urgent need of surgery -- but he needed extra funding for theatres and support facilities.

Following his appeal in the Irish Independent on Saturday, Mr Kiely was contacted by Health Minister James Reilly who has asked to meet him this week to discuss a plan to operate on other children and teenagers on lists in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and Tallaght Hospital.

A spokesman confirmed last night that Dr Reilly and other senior health officials will meet with the surgeon this week to discuss a plan. Greater use of theatres is possible without major investment, he said.

Terena, who is keeping a vigil by Jason's bedside, said he will undergo the major part of the surgery on Wednesday when he will be in theatre for hours.

"If he had the operation three years ago he would only have needed rods inserted. But now they have to take away most of his spine."

Jason, who suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, was on a waiting list for three years and hoped it would go ahead a year ago.

But he was devastated when Tallaght Hospital had to stop doing the surgery in January because of lack of funding.

Terena described as a miracle the donor's generosity in coming forward to pay for the operation after seeing Jason's distress on RTE's 'Prime Time'.

"We cannot thank him or Pat Kiely enough," she added. "I hope this will lead to other young people who are also in need getting their operations."

All of the donors want to remain anonymous.

Terena's daily routine was gruelling, as she had to physically carry Jason from his upstairs bedroom to the sitting room.

The local authority is also providing the family with a wheelchair-modified house which will allow Jason to live downstairs.

"It's a dormer bungalow and we should be able to move into it after we return home from the hospital," said Terena, who also cares for her daughter Caraleigh (14).

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