Tuesday 26 March 2019

Record-breaking Vera is so grateful

Vera Dwyer
Vera Dwyer

Ciara Galvin

Great-grandmother Vera Dwyer has been recognised as the longest surviving lung transplant recipient in the world.

The 77-year-old from Keash was awarded a gold medallion from the Irish Heart and Lung Transplant Association to mark 30 years since she received her transplant.

Diagnosed with an irreversible and chronic fibrotic lung disease, Vera was left bedbound. She received a single lung transplant in a life-saving operation in the UK in 1988.

At the time such procedures were not available in Ireland.

Speaking to The Sligo Champion, Vera said she hadn't heard of transplants at the time.

"I was dying anyway so doctors said I should go to England.

"On May 18th I got the transplant, I was so lucky.

"When I got to London they told me I had only hours or days at most to live."

At home Vera had four children ranging in age from 10 to 21-years-old, while she spent three months between Airfield Hospital and Royal Brompton Hospital recovering, post transplant.

Vera had to learn how to walk, talk and eat again.

Flying home into the newly-built Knock Airport, Vera remembers crowds with banners and cars beeping on the way home.

"It was very exciting, it was great to get home again to my own bed. At home I got better every day," she noted.

Asked if she ever thought the transplant would be such a success, Vera admits, 'No, not at all'.

"I'm in all the medical records for this and the Guinness Book of Records as well.

"I don't really think about being the longest living," said the positive Sligo woman.

Positivity has got Vera through since 1988, receiving a kidney transplant in 2009 and replacement hip surgery last May.

Vera believes that others should receive medals instead of her, for looking after her throughout the last 30 years.

"The man that looked after me was my husband Mike, he was my rock.

"He died in 2014. It was him that should have gotten the medal.

"He was so good to me, brought me to all the clinics.

"People that looked after me should be getting the medals, not me."

Thirty years ago, the mother of four was just hoping she would see her children reared, now, since becoming the world's longest living lung transplant survivor she hopes to continue to enjoy time with her family, the youngest of which is two-month-old great granddaughter Maisie.

Vera also highlighted the importance of organ donation and hopes people register for organ donor cards.

"Without my donors I wouldn't be here today. One thing I would say is if people could carry donor cards because it's so, so important.

"For people waiting for a transplant or just had one, just keep going.

"I have to think positive all the time and that will get you a lot of places."

Sligo Champion