The remarkable story of a CF patient, a lung transplant and the Government jet

Cork man Pio Fenton has shared the remarkable story of his brother's lung transplant which occurred 20 years ago today.

The remarkable story of a CF patient, a lung transplant and the Government jet

Cork man Pio Fenton has shared the remarkable story of his brother's lung transplant which occurred 20 years ago today.

Pio's brother Dermot was fighting a battle with cystic fibrosis (CF) and was in need of a lung transplant. But as Pio points out, he also needed a heart transplant, because "at that point it was best to get the matching heart that went with them."

Pio says there was one remarkable thing about his brother's story which wasn't even that their flight to London for the transplant was on the Government jet.

Pio Fenton. Picture: Ian Armstrong
Pio Fenton. Picture: Ian Armstrong

After a year of waiting, Dermot got the call that a matching heart and lungs had been secured for him and that they had to get from north Cork to London immediately.

When they got to the airport they were brought to a plane, which unbeknown to them was the government jet.

"It frankly wouldn’t have mattered," says Pio, "but my brother got a kick out of it.

"On board was Minister Tom Kitt who was on the way to Brussels when diverted for this “mercy dash” as the newspapers called it."

Pio states that despite the fear and anxiety his brother's transplant was a success.

Dermot Fenton, pictured 10 years after his transplant.
Dermot Fenton, pictured 10 years after his transplant.

"For my brother it was to be his night though. Conscious that, in most transplants, someone else has experienced a terrible loss - I just want to remember them now.

"Der underwent a 7.5 hour highly risky and complicated operation.

"The transition from blue to pink in such an operation is apparently one of the most remarkable things. Doctors commented about this with my brother. It’s an image that stays with me.

"Der’s op was a success but there is a 3-month recovery with this."

Despite Dermot's story being splashed on the front page, Pio says the most amazing aspect of it occurred while his brother was rehabilitating.

"While in the hospital gym rehabilitating one day he got talking to the lady next to him. It was a transplant centre - every patient compared notes. It was part of the comraderie," writes Pio.

"So in talking to her he realizes that She has HIS HEART in her. He is now, in his words, cycling two bikes! His transplant was a Domino transplant which are not so common now.

"Nett effect was his heart being donated to a third person while he received a matching heart and lungs from the deceased person.

"Bizzare though! Imagine meeting a person whom has the heart you’ve had for the past 24 years."

Dermot's heart, which had been replaced by one to match his new lungs, had gone to 48 year-old British mother Janet Netherton.

This story led to a fresh media storm and a Late Late Show appearance, which Pio said Der relished.

"His constant message was the transformative value of organ donation and the importance of living life.

He lived up to that - the beauty of life renewed is a thing to behold. He subsequently had ups and downs - a kidney transplant, a bypass (with the threat of no anaesthetic) a foot amputation (likewise) but he lived fully and happily.

He died, 17 years after that transplant, at Christmas three years ago and was buried in New Year’s Day. The 17 years brought him, us his family and so many others, so much happiness. SO MUCH. It was possible because of medical science and the generosity of a family in despair.

Carry an organ Donor Card. Remember organ donors . Today, if you get the chance, lift a glass to a man whose 41 years on earth defined the phrase “life is for living” on a day he used to mark as his second birthday.

You can read Pio's (and Der's) story in full @Piofenton on Twitter.

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