Friday 23 March 2018

'At the moment I'm on oxygen 24 hours a day'

Michael McGloin at his home in Cartron, Sligo.
Michael McGloin at his home in Cartron, Sligo.

He has been "gowned up" and ready to have a long awaited lung transplant operation on two occasions.

However, each time, 64-year-old Michael McGloin has had to go home to Sligo without undergoing the knife.

It's a fact of life for many on the organ transplant list.

Michael says: "The last time was in February.

"The ambulance collected me and on the way up to Dublin I had built up my hopes.

"I was in my gown in the Mater Hospital and all set.

"Then I was told it's not for you today.

"You come down like a ton of bricks.

"They call three patients at a time and the nearest to being a 100% match gets the lung."

Michael, who is suitable for a single lung transplant, says the criteria can sometimes be difficult to match.

The size of the donor organ along with blood and tissue matches are all taken into consideration.

Organ donation will be one of the issues which Michael as President of a new national patient group will be focusing on.

Michael, who lives in Cartron Point, has suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for the past 14 years.

He set up a support group Benbulben COPD in Sligo initially in 2006 and has helped establish five other branches around the country.

As newly appointed President of COPD Ireland, organ donation will be one of his top priorities.

"People are very supportive and they'll take the card but they never sign it," he says.

Michael estimates there are 440,000 people living with the disease in Ireland unaware of the condition.

"Many people don't realise they have it and they put it down to the ageing process.

"A simple test with your GP will diagnose it quickly and tell you what stage you are at," says Michael.

There are 110,000 people diagnosed with COPD and Michael is in no doubt how he got the condition.

"I was an 80-a-day cigarette smoker," he says.

He started smoking when he was just 12 and had part of a lung removed in the 1980s after it collapsed four times.

That's why Michael can only have a single lung transplant but he says this would transform his life.

"At the moment I'm on oxygen 24/7.

"I have to bring my oxygen machine with me everywhere," he says.

Every Tuesday morning he gets a phonecall from the Mater asking how he is doing.

"It's good they keep in touch.

"I'm fairly stable at the moment.

"The winter is the worst though and I'll probably end up in hospital with chest problems over the coming months.

"I could have up to five admissions in a year.

"So far this year I've only been in three times and that's brilliant," he says.

A course of steroids through an intravenous line and he's fine again.

The launch of COPD Ireland took place in Dublin and lending his support on the day was Minister Alex White.

It is Ireland's first national COPD support and advocacy body.

It will also offer help for those caring for someone with COPD.

Recent research found that over a third of people with COPD said it had a detrimental effect on their careers.

Almost a fifth said it forced them to retire early.

Michael says setting up a national body was a long held ambition.

"It will be a vital support group and will also get the word out there more about COPD," he says.

Another aim of the new charity will be to extend the number of hospitals offering exercise rehab.

Michael says it is of great benefit and avails of the service at Sligo Regional Hospital.

"It needs to be done in hospital under supervision.

"People think they cannot possibly exercise but just 30 seconds on the bike and treadmill makes a big difference to lung function," he says.

Sligo Champion