Herald readers coming to rescue for Abbey's lifesaving heart transplant

Adelina Campos

HERALD readers have been digging deep for Dublin toddler Abbey May (2) who needs treatment in the US.

Kind-hearted members of the public have been donating much-needed funds towards Abbey's care despite economically-straitened times.

Mum Jacqui Gray (41) told the Herald she was "amazed" by the amount of support she had already received from the community. Jacqui and Abbey appeared in the Herald two weeks ago and donations have increased.

"People have been fantastic and just so generous. We have raised €23,000 so far [almost a tenth of what will be required for Abbey's care], and we're preparing a plan for fundraising events in 2011 this week," the courageous single mother said.

"I was so scared that we wouldn't be able to raise any money at all, especially in such tough times, but I am feeling a bit more optimistic now, even if I do still live in constant fear that we won't make it in time."

In order to prolong her daughter's life, Jacqui is hoping to raise around €260,000.

Abbey was born with a very large hole in her heart, congenital heart defects, and her internal organs are reversed. She also has no spleen.

Doctors have told Jacqui her daughter would not live past her teens because of her condition unless she had a heart transplant, and tragically, they have ruled out Abbey undergoing such an operation in Ireland.

Jacqui is looking to Canada and the USA where children like Abbey have received treatment for her condition.

"Abbey had her first surgery when she was just three days old," Jacqui said.

"Children with her condition eventually go into cardiac failure and need a heart transplant in order to survive, but doctors have said that a transplant was out of the question.

"I was told that the reason the hospital would not place her on the transplant list was because she was a high-risk patient, and when I asked if it was down to politics and money, they agreed.

"Because of this, I don't feel safe staying here with her. It's not that I don't trust Irish doctors -- they have been fantastic throughout -- but they can't do anything more for her.

"She's not the only one either, I've been talking to other families in this position and it's sad to think that our children can't get treatment here.

"So this is what I have to do. I'm like any parent -- I'd go to the end of the earth for my daughter. I have to give her a chance."

After doing some research, Jacqui, who gave up her job in hospitality management to become Abbey's full-time carer, found out that her daughter could have a transplant in Philadelphia, Texas or Canada.

"I've received a lot of support from our local TD Darragh O'Brien. He got in touch with the Laura Brennan Charitable Trust," Jacqui said.

"Nuala and Pat Brennan lost their daughter three years ago through meningitis, and set up a trust to help other families, they have offered to pay for Abbey's flights to Philadelphia so she can have an evaluation next year."

Although Jacqui and Abbey face a gruelling year, they are finding happiness where they can.

"At the moment she's doing well. I brought her to see Santa the other day and it was a lovely treat for her because she can't go out that much because of her condition.

"She's going to help me to put up the Christmas tree as well, which will be great for her now she's starting to understand what it's all about. She's been singing Christmas songs all day and she's loving it.

Details of upcoming fundraising events to help Abbey May can be found at www.abbeymay.net.

Donations can be made to AIB, Swords, Co Dublin, account name Abbey May, number 35097007, sort code 93-25-23.