Woman dies as lung op cancelled twice

A 23-YEAR-OLD woman, for whom a life-saving lung transplant operation had to be called off twice recently, died yesterday at Cork University Hospital.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) sufferer Mary Hand, from Dingle, had been given 12 months to live without a transplant and was still hoping for a phone call telling her that a suitable donor was available.

Twice in the past three months, she had been rushed to Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle, England, with her mother, Betty. This is the hospital where such surgery on Irish people is carried out. However, she was told she could not have the operation on both occasions.

She was informed in June that the donor lungs were damaged, while last month she could not have the operation after tests showed her to have an infection and blood difficulties.

“It’s just so heart-breaking. Time is running out, but I’m still hoping and praying for a miracle,” she said at the time. Last April, Mary had been placed on the transplant list at Freeman Hospital and was one of 20 Irish people on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.

At home and in hospital, she was on oxygen round-the-clock. She had three rounds of physiotherapy and seven doses of the nebuliser each day.

She was the youngest in a family of four born to Tom and Betty Hand, who were being comforted by neighbours and relatives last night. The family is popular and well respected in Dingle.

Despite her disappointments, Mary never gave up hope and had her bags packed on a 24-hour basis as she waited for a phone call that could safe her life.

She was just six weeks old when she was diagnosed with CF.

Friends in Dingle yesterday remembered her as an “’exceptional person whose brave fight with a life-long illness was an inspiration to all”.

Ms Hand’s passing has recalled the death in November, 2004, of Billy Burke, 29, from Killorglin, after a long battle with Cystic fibrosis. He had campaigned tirelessly for a transplant unit in Dublin.

Mr Burke had been on a transplant waiting list at Freeman Hospital for three years before being taken off the list, in 2003, after doctors took the view he was too ill for a transplant.

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