Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Heart parents 'forever grateful'

Keela Smith received a heart transplant in a 10-and-a-half hour operation at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle

The parents of a four-year-old girl who had a life-saving heart transplant when she was a baby have reminded families of the importance of organ donation.

John and Orla Smith said they would be forever grateful to the family who, having lost their child, decided to donate to give 11-month-old Keela a new chance at life.

"Keela was born a beautiful healthy baby, just like her older brother Oisin," Ms Smith said.

"Like most families, we were just getting on with life and never contemplated that organ failure would visit our door. We would urge all families to have the discussion about organ donation and now."

As Organ Donor Awareness Week starts on Sunday, the family from Blackrock in Cork said they were particularly reflective of the transplant at this time of year.

Keela was struck down by a sudden and almost fatal virus on Easter Saturday four years ago. The virus attacked her heart, leaving the once healthy baby fighting for her life.

Six weeks later she received a heart transplant in a ten and a half-hour operation at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

"We will be forever grateful to the family who, in their darkest hour of losing their child, made the selfless decision to donate so that Keela and other children's lives could be saved," Ms Smith added.

Keela, who is now in pre-school, continues to take anti-rejection drugs for her heart transplant and is vulnerable to catching colds and other infections, but she leads a normal life.

Recent figures showed there were 78 deceased donors last year, a 17% fall from a record 93. The 206 organs included 131 kidneys, 50 livers, 14 lungs, 10 hearts and a pancreas, alongside 32 living donor kidney transplants. Organ Donor Awareness Week, organised by the Irish Kidney Association, runs from Easter Sunday to April 6.

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