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The pioneering op that allows brave Ciaran breathe easy

Pioneering surgery to rebuild an 11-year-old boy's windpipe using his own stem cells was hailed a success today as he prepared to leave hospital.

Ciaran Finn-Lynch became the first child in the world to undergo the pioneering trachea transplant in March and is set to return home to Northern Ireland.

Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London took stem cells from the boy's bone marrow and injected them into a donor windpipe which had been stripped of its own cells.

They implanted the organ and allowed the stem cells to transform themselves in his own body. By using his cells, doctors could avoid the potential problem of Ciaran's immune system rejecting the trachea.

Great Ormond Street revealed today that, four weeks ago, the transplant was considered a success after doctors proved the blood supply had returned to the trachea.

Ciaran's parents, Colleen and Paul, now hope to take him home for the first time since November.

Ciaran was born with a condition called Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis, which leaves sufferers with a very narrow windpipe -- in his case just one millimetre across -- making breathing incredibly difficult.

He underwent major surgery to reconstruct his airways but, at the age of two-and-a-half, a metal stent used to hold his airway open eroded into his aorta, a major artery.

He went through more surgery, including two attempts to rebuild his airway, and finally left hospital after eight months.

Ciaran lived a full and active life until November last year when a stent again started to erode, causing a "massive bleed".

His mother said: "I'd bought him a new shirt and he came downstairs with it on. The next moment there was blood coming from everywhere.

"There was so much blood I couldn't give him any breaths, I really thought I had lost him."

As options for Ciaran ran out, his specialists turned to pioneering stem cell treatment.

The surgery had been tried in Spain in 2008 on a mother-of-two -- the first person to receive a transplant organ created from stem cells -- but Ciaran was to be the first child.

Ciaran went under the knife in March, just four weeks after a donor trachea was found in Italy, and now doctors have confirmed his new windpipe is working well.

"We didn't have much choice when it came to the operation," Colleen said. "If Ciaran had one more bleed I don't think he would have made it."

Ciaran, a keen drummer, even started practising with a lesson in the hospital's intensive care unit recently. He was also kept smiling by a visit from comedy star Alan Carr.