Mary waits for lung transplant to combat cystic fibrosis

MARY HAND is waiting for a call that will turn her life around. The 23-year-old from Dingle, Co Kerry, has cystic fibrosis and needs a double lung transplant as soon as possible.

She has been waiting since last April to be called by the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle for her life-saving operation.

Currently, there are 20 Irish people on the hospital's waiting list, of whom 14 have cystic fibrosis. But while Irish people have been very generous in donating organs this has not been reflected in the number of lungs 'harvested' last year.

Chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland (CFAI), Godfrey Fletcher, found that 23 lungs were harvested from Irish donors between 2003 and 2004 but only 14 over the period 2004 to 2005 and said the reason for the decline must be examined.

Of the 14 lungs harvested in Ireland last year, two came from Bantry General Hospital; four from Cork University Hospital; two from Beaumont Hospital in Dublin; five from Limerick Regional Hospital and one from Nenagh General Hospital in Co Tipperary.

"We want a competent, independent transplant authority that is capable of auditing hospitals in Ireland and putting agreed procedures in place so we can better utilise any potential organ that becomes available," he said.

Mary, the youngest of a family of four, is on oxygen 24 hours a day. Last year she had to give up her job in a local flower shop when her health worsened and decided it was time she was assessed for a transplant.

"I was actually delighted to be accepted because it will allow me to lead a relatively normal life. I will need some post-transplant medication, but it will be nothing compared to what I am on now," she said.

"While my friends keep in touch with me I don't have the energy to do what they are doing. I do have a boyfriend, Alan Kenny. He has been a great support. I would be lost without him."

Meanwhile, the CFAI has welcomed the announcement that the e5 million announced in the Budget for cystic fibrosis in Ireland will allow for the recruitment of 60 additional cystic fibrosis staff. At present there are four consultants treating more than 1,100 patients with cystic fibrosis and 40 professional cystic fibrosis staff providing treatment when there should be 175, said Mr Fletcher.

* As part of its efforts to highlight the needs of Ireland's growing cystic fibrosis population, the CFAI will launch a national cystic fibrosis awareness week today. The need for sponsorship, additional State funding and the carrying of organ donation cards are the main focus of the campaign.

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