Meadhbh McGivern, the 14-year-old girl at the center of an Irish national scandal when emergency services bungled efforts to get her to London for a vital liver transplant, has finally had her life-giving operation.
The life-saving call for Meadhbh, whose condition was deteriorating in recent weeks since she first failed to get to the operating theatre in time in July, came to her Co. Leitrim home shortly before 10 p.m. on Wednesday night last week.
Meadhbh had already taken her night medicines and was ready to go to bed. This time her family was determined that no way was there going to be a mess-up like the last time when, following a series of bungled communications in the health system, they had to get out of a helicopter at Strandhill Airport in Sligo because the flight wouldn’t have made to London it in time for the operation.
She was on the King’s College hospital priority list in London more than 15 months. She became the longest-waiting patient on the list.
Her father Joe said, “We were a bit frightened when we got the second call. We kept thinking all along what could go wrong with transport now. When the Air Corps Lear jet lifted off the runway at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel outside Dublin that’s the first time we felt we really were on our way this time.”
Less than four hours after the emergency call to her home in Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, Meadhbh was checked into the hospital following a 90-mile car drive under police escort from her home to the aerodrome, the flight, and then a land ambulance from the touchdown airport to hospital.
Then, an operation that was expected to last at most for eight hours, took 13 hours.
Later, she was reported to be making good progress but is expected to remain in the London hospital for six weeks.
Even before Meadhbh missed a transplant in July she was basically house-bound. Earlier this month she spent almost nine days in Crumlin Hospital in Dublin, hooked up to a morphine drip, when her parents could no longer manage her pain at home.
On July 2 Maedhbh was left stranded a half-hour before midnight beneath the blades of a helicopter that was too late to take off to beat an operation deadline the first time she got a call that a suitable liver was available.
The appalling events that led to Meadhbh missing her flight to life immediately prompted two massive inquiries by the Health Service Executive and the Health Information and Quality Authority.
Their subsequent reports highlighted serious systemic deficiencies in Ireland’s emergency transport process.