Saturday 25 May 2019

Martin always thanks the young man who donated his heart

Hubert Murphy

A former school principal is living proof that organ donation can truly save and change lives.

It was in early 1988 that Galway native and St Mary's Villas man Martin Burke suffered severe heart problems and his chances of survival were deemed very low.

But in October of that year - exactly 30 years ago - he got a second chance at life.

A donor heart, belonging to a man in his 20s, became available and the rest was history.

But to this day, Martin (77) still prays and offers masses for the young man whose heart he carries.

'I don't know who the donor is but I send a mass card each year,' he states. He said he would have liked to have met the man's family, but doesn't think it will happen now.

'It is strange to think that I have another person's heart in me but science is extraordinary,' Martin admits. 'It's still going strong so it must have been a good one. I think it is always important to remember the donors.

When he underwent his surgery, under the guidance of Dr Nelligan and Dr Wood, it was a rarity as there had only been 12 or 13 such operations before then.

Martin, who, ironically, always carried a donor card himself, is one of just a few from that era who have lived so many years and he puts that down to a few things.

'I don't drink much and was always pretty careful,' he says. But at the age of 50, he felt he should help his heart by taking up running and run he did - to the very highest level in Europe.

He became a key part of the European Heart and Lung Championships and competed all over the continent, from France to Austria, Holland, Norway and Switzerland.

His last Games were in 2008 when he two two silvers and a bronze.

'I favoured the 400m and the 1500m as well as the 4000m,' he states.

'Life has been good since the transplant. I didn't get a rejection and that's the main thing.

'I celebrated my 77th birthday on October 12 but I don't do the running anymore. I mainly walk now and cycle a bit and only get excited when Galway are in an All-Ireland Final!'

With wife Lorna, he celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary in July. They have three children, two sons in Berlin and London and a daughter in Donabate.

'I would ask people to be an organ donor. It saved my life,' he added.

Drogheda Independent