Ireland's first liver and double lung transplant recipient says the possibilities are endless now.
“I woke up with my new organs on my 29th birthday in June. What a present to get,” said Limerick man, Robert Sheahan.
“There was no cake but there will be plenty of cake for my 30th birthday. It will be the first anniversary of the surgery.
“I am extremely grateful to the donor and the donor's family who had a very difficult decision to make.”
Robert, from Askeaton, Co Limerick, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) as a baby.
Despite having the chronic disease, Robert led a relatively healthy life until his mid-20s when his condition deteriorated.
“In the summer of 2018, I had the first of three lung collapses and had to be rushed to hospital in a pretty dramatic way.
In December 2018, after the third collapse, I was transferred by ambulance to the Mater Hospital (Dublin) which became my home for the next eight months.
Robert's parents are Kevin and Caroline Sheahan. His father is a Fianna Fáil councillor and a former lord mayor of Limerick. His brothers, Kevin and Rory, are unaffected by CF.
Like many people living with CF, Robert had multiple organ issues. His liver function was so poor that he could not successfully cope with a lung transplant only.
Transplant teams at the Mater's national heart and lung unit and St Vincent's University University Hospital's national liver transplant unit discussed how they would simultaneously transplant both liver and lungs.
Head of the heart and lung transplantation unit, Lars Nolke, said it was life-saving treatment because Robert would not be able to leave the hospital without a liver and lung double-transplant.
“The team here at the Mater worked very closely with our colleagues at St Vincent's planning the protocols for every scenario imaginable. After much discussion and hard work, we were ready to put Robert on the active transplant list,” said Mr Nolke.
Surprisingly, on the same day in June that Robert was put on the active list donated donors became available and the two transplant teams sprang into action.
Director of the national liver transplant unit, Emir Hoti, got to work first – transplanting the liver, in the ten-hour operation.
“Robert has benefitted the most of any person I've seen or treated for transplant. The fact this is a first for Ireland shows how far we have come in terms of our transplant programme,” said Mr Hoti.
The operation itself, while complicated, was a success and our collaboration with the team at the Mater was superb.
While Mr Hoti was performing the liver transplant on Robert, Mr Nolke was simultaneously transplanting the heart from the same donor to another transplant patient.
When the liver transplant was complete, Mr Nolke and the Mater team took over and transplanted the lungs.