Arron O’Leary, 12, was called for the operation in Newcastle just days after his dad, Paul, told Santa that their ultimate Christmas gift would be a cure for cystic fibrosis and for him to receive the transplant.
Paul and his wife Caroline, who were maintaining a vigil at Arron’s bedside in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital last night, said they are thrilled at how well he is doing after Monday’s surgery.
“Aaron was very sick and was going downhill. But he’s sitting up now and smiling, asking about the donor and asking for cups of tea,” a delighted Paul said.
Arron was among more than 200 sick children who visited Santa at Fota House with the Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club last Thursday week.
His parents told Santa they hoped Arron, who had been on a transplant waiting list for six months, would get his operation as soon as possible. Little did they know then that they would get that vital call within days.
The family, from Ballinhassig, Co Cork, were at the official opening of Cork University Hospital’s new cystic fibrosis unit on Monday when the Freeman’s cardiopulmonary transplant service phoned to say a donor match had been found.
Paul, Caroline, and Arron were whisked with garda escort to Cork Airport, where a chartered aircraft was waiting to fly them to Newcastle. Arron was in surgery within an hour.
Arron was breathing on his own a day later and medics are pleased with his progress.
“It’s just unbelievable really,” said Paul. “He was always pale because the oxygen wasn’t circulating through his body properly. But he has big, red rosy cheeks now. It’s life-changing for him, and for us.
“He now has two birthdays — the day he was born and the day he got his transplant.
“We will be eternally grateful to the donor. While our Christmas wish has come true, we are thinking of the donor’s family this Christmas. Our prayers and thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
The couple’s eldest son, Cian, 14, who also has cystic fibrosis, flew to Newcastle yesterday to join them.
Arron will in hospital for Christmas but the family are looking forward to getting home soon.