Holding on for a perfect match

WHEN the call came through last Thursday from the Mater Hospital in Dublin, it offered Isabel Terry the chance to lead a normal life again. The news was good; a suitable donor heart had been found for the 31-year-old who has congenital heart disease.

After two-and-a-half years on a transplant waiting list, this was the call she and her family had been waiting for.

“We were so shocked when we heard, but excited as well, of course. It was all my dreams come true and I was over the moon, and we set off for Dublin immediately,” Isabel recalls.

But then, less than an hour into the journey from her home in Bishopstown, Cork, the Mater rang to say the heart had gone into distress and could not be used. “The transplant was cancelled and we had to turn around and go back. It was devastating,” Isabel says.

Isabel, who has been in the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork for the past 10 days, consoles herself with the fact that receiving a damaged donor heart might have made her condition even more perilous.

As it is, her condition means that most of her day is spent hooked up to an oxygen tank. Acute pain is caused by the pressure put on her body by her failing heart and the resultant fluid that gathers in her lungs.

The news that the heart was unsuitable also came as a blow to Isabel’s parents, Oliver and Deirdre, who have five other children.

“We had waited for so long for this day. The staff in the Bons were marvellous in helping Isabel to get ready and for that to happen was devastating,” Deirdre says.

She points out that while Isabel is top of the donor list “everything has to be matching to give the transplant a chance of success”.

Although the number of annual organ donors has remained steady, at around 80, for the past decade, the demand is rising. Phyllis Cunningham, national donor coordinator based at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, knows just how vital it is for as many people as possible to donate their organs in the event of their death.

“We would encourage people to carry a donor card and let their relatives know that they would wish their organs to be donated, should the unfortunate situation arise,” she says.

* Donor cards can be obtained at doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals and the Irish Kidney Association at locall 1890-456-556.

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