BY KATHY ARMSTRONG
Ireland’s youngest ever heart transplant recipient today thanked the heroic doctors who saved his life.
Patrick Barry, now 33, said that without the pioneering op when he was just eleven, he wouldn’t be here and neither would his two daughters.
Mr Barry, was speaking at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, as they celebrated thirty years of heart transplants and ten years of lung transplants being carried out there.
Since then there have been 330 heart and 130 lung transplants at the hospital.
Mr Barry, from Tallaght in Dublin, had Viral Cardiomyopathy and by the time of his operation on December 18 1993, he weighed just four stone and had been warned that otherwise he wouldn’t live to see that Christmas.
He said: “I remember I got sick when I was eleven with flu-like symptoms, I thought it was a 24-hour bug and all I would have to do is lie on the couch and drink flat 7-Up.
“Within three weeks, I was told I would need a transplant, basically all of the muscles in my heart had been killed.
“It was September when I was diagnosed and I got the transplant in December, so it wasn’t a long wait, considering some people have to wait years.
“I got very sick in that time though.”
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The Mater Hospital in Dublin
Mr Barry explained that he is grateful to the medical team and staff for enabling him to meet his fiance Amanda and have their little girls Lucy, 5, and Emily, 22 months.
The painter and decorator said: “When people donate organs they think it will only save one life, which is great, but I’m here with my two daughters.
“I had kids, they might have kids, it’s creating lives.”
He said of being back in the Mater: “It’s great to see all of the old nursing staff, my life’s in debt to all of them.
“They would have lost a lot of time with their own families when they were helping the likes of me, you can’t say enough about them.”
Amanda, 27, echoed this, saying: “We are very grateful as well to surgeon Freddie Wood, he risked his job at a time when they were sending a lot of young people to England for transplants.” Kate Kavanagh, from Barna in Co Galway, was also delighted to be at the celebrations, less than a year after she had a double lung transplant at the hospital last July.
Kate, 27, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was born and her condition deteriorated to the point where she spent 30 weeks in hospital last year before her operation.
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20/10/2014 The Mater Hospital, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
She said: “The recovery has been amazing, I’ve just gone from strength to strength really.
“I’ll always be on anti-rejection drugs but it’s a small price to pay.
“Now hopefully I will never be in hospital again.
“I’m now working in a PR company in Dublin, I could never have imagined a year ago that I would be back at work already.”
Kate urged others to discuss organ donation with their loved ones, saying: “Maybe there needs to be a little bit of a cultural shift in people’s mindsets.
“People need to sit down and have a talk about it, it’s obviously not the easiest of conversations but I think having the chat is nearly more important than carrying the card, your family need to know how you feel about being an organ donor.
“It might still be a little bit of a taboo subject but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my donor’s family having that chat.”
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he is thrilled about the success of transplant operations in Ireland and hopes this will only improve.
He said: “Ireland had the third highest rate of lung transplants in Europe in 2014 and I want to see Ireland’s rates on organ donation and transplantation matching the top performing countries in Europe.” He said that he is also keen to press ahead with introducing an opt-out organ donor system.
Mr Varadkar said: “We hope to publish the legislation later this year for an opt-out register for organ donation.
“I think there’s a good chance of this happening if the Dail runs until April 2016.”
He continued: “Essentially this means that people who definitely do not want to offer their organs to be included for transplants will automatically be on the register and will have to opt-out.
“This will be some indication at least that other people would be willing to consider donating organs, though of course the consent of families will remain paramount.
“I would also hope that it would start some sort of debate and conversations among families about what they would like to happen if they were to die tragically but their organs could still be used to help someone else.”