Isabel Terry: Heart, lung recipient praises transplant rise

A woman who got a new heart and new lungs six months ago has welcomed record-breaking transplant figures, and urged people to talk to their loved ones about organ donation.

However, Isabel Terry, 43, from Cork, who underwent her surgery in the UK, said that while the 11% increase in transplants last year is encouraging, 600 people are still on waiting lists here.

“I read those waiting list figures every year,” she said. “I was one of them. But now I’m a recipient. Now, I’m one of the good statistics. It’s mind-blowing, really. I’m living proof that organ donation works.”

Ahead of Organ Donor Awareness Week, next week, and as the Organ Tissue Bill, which provides for a soft opt-out clause, progresses towards becoming law, Isabel urged people to talk to their family about their organ-donation wishes.

“The bill could take months,” she said. “So, while politicians do their thing, we can do our thing, by talking about organ-donation, by letting our next of kin know our wishes. It’s very important to people like me.”

Her comments come as the HSE published its Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) 2017 annual report. This shows that a record-breaking, 311 organ transplants, from 99 deceased organ donations, were carried out in Ireland last year, up 11% on the previous year. The report also shows there were:

  • 36 lung transplants, one of the highest rates in Europe, and 16 heart transplants, at the Mater;
  • Kidney transplant from deceased donation increased to 141, with 51 living donor kidney transplants undertaken in Beaumont Hospital.
  • 62 liver transplants, and five simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplants, were undertaken at St Vincent’s University Hospital.

Isabel Terry: Heart, lung recipient praises transplant rise

ODTI director Jim Egan praised the “extraordinary generosity and courage” of all donors.

“Every transplant performed is as a result of the generosity of a deceased donor family, at a time of great personal loss, or a living donor, who save and enhance the lives of others,” said Prof Egan.

“It is only because of the generosity of the Irish public that patients can receive the life-saving treatment of an organ transplant. Our message is simple; organ donation saves lives.”

He said modernisation of organ donation and transplant services, particularly in relation to deceased cardiac donation, “remains outstanding”.

He said they are also “on the cusp” of signing a service-level agreement with the North, in relation to paired kidney exchange, which should mitigate the need for Irish patients to travel to the UK.

Isabel, who waited 14 years for her transplants, said she cherishes the simple things in life, like not having to rely on oxygen 24-hours a day, and being able to get dressed and climb stairs without gasping for breath.

She said: “I was very hard on myself, in the first few weeks and months, but when I get frustrated with my progress, my family say ‘look at how you did last week, compare it to that’, and I can see progress. I’m getting stronger every day.”


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