Cork ‘Warrior’ begins fight back after transplant

Courageous Isabel Terry has been described as a “warrior” focused on recovery following her double lung and heart transplant operation.

Cork ‘Warrior’ begins fight back after transplant

Isabel, from Cork, who had been waiting 15-years for the call that could change her life, underwent the marathon 12-hour surgery in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle at the weekend.

Posting on her Facebook page, Life on the List, her partner, Philip, said it was a tough and complex operation but that the surgeon who oversaw the procedure is happy.

“And that’s all we need to know. Obviously the coming days and weeks will be a tough battle, but no better warrior than Isabel to take it on,” he said.

He also expressed deep gratitude to the donor and their family.

“Our thoughts are very much with the donor’s family at what must be a very difficult time for them,” he said.

He said the last few days have been a whirlwind since Friday’s phone call to say matching organs had been identified.

Isabel, her mother, Deirdre, and Philip flew out from Cork Airport within hours on a special medical flight organised by the Freeman’s transplant team.

They knew the organs were a match on paper, but they still had to wait for the surgeons’ decision to proceed. That decision came just hours later, and the operation went ahead.

Philip said: “The next few days obviously are critical but we have 100% confidence in the team here.

“They were almost 12 hours in theatre. It was always going to be very complicated and complex surgery.

“Newcastle have the top surgeons in Europe for this type of surgery and immediate after care.

“The next two to three days are critical then there are a tough few weeks and possibly months ahead but if anyone can do it, Isabel Terry can.”

Isabel, 41, from Bishopstown on the southside of Cork city, suffers from pulmonary atresia, a birth defect of the pulmonary valve in the heart, and has to use bottled oxygen 24-hours a day.

She was first assessed as needing a heart transplant in 2003 while in the care of the Mater in Dublin. She suffered the heartbreak of five unsuccessful transplant calls between 2003 and 2009.

But by 2009 her condition had worsened to the point where she required a heart and double lung transplant.

Her care was transferred to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and she has since been on their transplant list since.

Before Friday, she had one unsuccessful call in that time.

She hit the headlines last month when the HSE wouldn’t cover an air ambulance transfer for her between Cork and Newcastle to attend a vital medical assessment.

But she made the trip after an anonymous benefactor stepped in at the last minute and provided a private jet to ensure she made the appointment.

Single heart and lung transplants are performed routinely but it is rare to find matching organs for the heart and double lung transplant.

But the Freeman Hospital’s cardiopulmonary transplant service, established over 20 years ago, is one of the leading centres in Europe for such surgery.

The service performed its first heart transplant in 1985, followed two years later by its first lung transplant in 1987. It performed the first double lung transplant in Europe in 1990.

Since then, the service has performed almost 800 heart transplants, including over 140 in children, and over 600 lung or heart and lung transplants.

It has performed more cardiopulmonary transplants than anywhere else in the UK and is widely regarded as the premier lung transplant service in the country.

Its service is built around a dedicated and highly experienced team drawn from a wide range of experts, including: cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiologists, respiratory physicians and anaesthetists, as well as transplant coordinators, nurses, physiotherapists and social workers.

This multidisciplinary team manages all aspects of patient care from initial assessment of potential transplant patients through to the long-term post-transplant care required.

Isabel, who has charted her agonising wait through her Life on the List blog, has spoken openly about the disappointment of getting the call, only to find the operation doesn’t go ahead.

Philip said she hopes her campaign will remind people of the importance of becoming an organ donor.

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