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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 4 March 2021

15-year-old recounts the double lung transplant operation that saved his life

15-year-old Dean O’Connor was rushed to Newcastle on Christmas Eve for the life-changing operation.

Dean O'Connor and his father Brian with Ray D'Arcy
Dean O'Connor and his father Brian with Ray D'Arcy
Image: RTÉ

A 15-YEAR-old boy who had a double lung transplant spoke about his operation and recovery today and made a call for people to become organ donors.

Dean O’Connor returned home from Newcastle on Monday after he was flown there for the operation on Christmas Eve.

He has suffered from cystic fibrosis his whole life, and his lung capacity was at 29% and declining before he received his new lungs, which were provided by an anonymous donor in England.

Speaking on RTÉ’s the Ray D’Arcy Show , Dean talked about his life before and after the transplant. He said that throughout his entire life he was always able to do less than others:

“Say if I was was getting IV antibiotics,” said Dean.

“They’d have to be taken at certain times so I’d miss out on days like confirmations, communions, birthdays other family events… and they’d be cut short.

Since the operation, he said that he has been recovering and getting used to his new lungs:

Before, if I was to breathe in through it you’d hear crackles and wheeze and stuff… now it’s just really clear you can’t hear anything and it’s just amazing.

Christmas Eve

Dean was tested in February 2015 at the hospital in Newcastle. He was put on the transplant list in March and had been waiting for a suitable donor to be found since then.

Dean’s father Brian, who went on the show with him, spoke of receiving the call at 2pm on Christmas Eve that there were a pair of lungs for Dean in Newcastle.

“We were very surprised when we got the phone call at two o’clock Christmas Eve,” he said.

Well the case was packed anyway – it was just whatever last few things that had to be put in to it. We were told to be at the airport at six o’clock, there was a private jet waiting for us.
Then it was straight to Newcastle. I’d say we did it in about half an hour.

Following the operation, there were still some issues that could have arisen, with there being a chance that Dean’s body would reject the transplant.

“There was a 20% risk that he could reject the lungs,” said Brian.

And when you reject the lungs you can’ t take them out and put your old ones back. So it’s…

If Dean’s body rejected the lungs there would have been a very high possibility that he would have died.


If Dean remains healthy and takes care of his lungs they should last for anywhere between 15 and 30 years, Brian said.

“There’s always the rejection part,” said Brian.

That’s why he’s going to be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of this days.

Dean has to take certain drugs morning and night to stop his immune system from attacking the lungs.

He said that his aim was:

“To reach 100% in lung function and to build up in muscle and just be fit.”

Father and son ended the interview by making a call for people to become organ donors and carry organ donor cards.

“Encourage everyone to carry one. It’s a given really. It’ll help someone in the long run,” said Dean.

“It should be really made law,” said Brian.

Because they’re no good to you when you go.

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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