Shane still waits for a new heart

Shane O’Connell with wife Tricia on their wedding day.
Shane O’Connell with wife Tricia on their wedding day.

A 33-year-old father, who has been under the care of Dublin's Mater Hospital for nearly a year, is desperately waiting for a heart donor in the hope of returning to his young family at home in Castleisland.

Shane O'Connell has been under the full-time care of heart specialists at Dublin's Mater Hospital since last December as his heart started to fail. He is on a constant drip that provides him with the life-saving drugs he needs to survive until he can get a heart transplant.

Shane was diagnosed with dilated cardio myopathy at the age of just 11; a hereditary disease his own father Michael died from at the tragically young age of 45. His condition began to deteriorate rapidly in 2010 as he entered the final stages of heart failure.

His wife Tricia is now urgently appealling for more people to become organ donors as the couple's painful wait for a life-saving transplant continues.

She said that Shane is currently just 'existing' as his experience of waiting for a transplant cannot be termed a 'life' at present.

"Obviously there are big risks involved with it, but a heart transplant is Shane's only option to get some semblance of a normal life back," Tricia told The Kerryman this week. "He has been in the Mater since December last as he requires an IV drip 24/7, which he can only get as an in-patient and the fantastic team there need to monitor his condition constantly too," Tricia explained.

The couple issued their appeal for more organ donors this week marking European Day for Organ Donation and Transplantation which takes place on Saturday, October 12, next.

Shane's condition has taken a profound toll on his young family, including daughters Shauna (13) and Cadhla (4) and son Micheal who turns four this Wednesday.

"It's not easy, but you have to stay positive and that's exactly the way Shane is too at present. He has an incredibly strong mind thankfully and we try to get up to him as regularly as possible."

Tricia visits her husband every week, with the children coming up at weekends. "The whole thing is so hard on the family. It's hard on Shane and it's hard on the children. I try to bring them up every other weekend, but it's a long drive for the two small children. They've adjusted though and are very resilient."

"Organ donation is so important and we would just urge people to become donors. Ireland is ranked 21st in the world when it comes to heart transplants so it is low enough on the scale and donation rates have declined significantly here.

"It is also important for people to make clear their wish to donate organs as it can be even more painful for a family to make the decision to donate without knowing their loved one's wishes clearly," Tricia said.

Shane got called for a transplant in May, but surgeons were unable to carry out the procedure for a variety of reasons in the end.

"We just have to hope and pray that something will come up for him," said Tricia.