FOR SHANE O’Connell and his family, Christmas at home in Castleisland, Co Kerry, will be an extra special one this year.
Like many other families, they will be enjoying the usual family festive gatherings, but all the while knowing that thanks to a heart transplant O’Connell has a chance at life.
He is currently in the Mater Hospital, where he has been an in-patient since December 2012, recovering after being called for a heart transplant last week.
It looks like he might even be able to return home in time for Christmas this year.
“I am feeling really happy and doing great,” said O’Connell. “My donor’s family is in my thoughts and prayers at such a difficult time in their lives and I am really grateful for the gift of life I have received”.
His wife, mum of three Tricia O’Connell, spoke today of the family’s joy.
Shane, who is 33, was diagnosed with Dilated Cardio Myopathy when he was eleven years old. He was one of 10 people to be given a life-saving heart transplant at the Mater Hospital this year.
Just last month, Tricia made a heartfelt appeal for organ donors. She said that people like Shane are “living in limbo” in their wait for an organ.
Speaking on Radio Kerry’s Kerry Today Programme this morning, Tricia spoke of the “amazing and fantastic team of surgeons, doctors and transplant coordinators at the Mater Hospital”.
She said that her husband is now in intensive care and his recovery “is going really really well”.
It will be just brilliant to have him home and to know he is home for good. Shane’s mother is overjoyed and all the extended family and we have received good wishes from friends and neighbours.
She described organ donation as “such a wonderful gift to give at such a horrible time” when a family is going through the loss of a loved one, “but it makes such a difference to lives of others, it really is the gift of life”.
On the subject of changing the law on consent so that people have to opt-out rather than opt-in to organ donation, she said it “is one thing but no good if you don’t put in infrastructure behind it”.
Tricia said that Shane’s donor “is in our thoughts and very much so”. She said they are grateful to the donor and the great team at the Mater Hospital, but also extremely grateful to the Irish Kidney Association for their support.
In particular, she thanked the Kerry branch of the IKA and Chief Executive of the IKA, Mark Murphy, “who does fantastic work at patient level”.
She noted that since February 2012 the IKA has allowed her family to use its hostel accommodation and facilities at its Renal Support Centre on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital.
“This gave us the opportunity to spend precious family time with Shane and be close to him when we travel from Kerry and we have been staying there since his transplant,” she said. “Without the IKA’s support and the support of our extended family and friends I don’t know how we would have managed.”