A Leitrim family has been left distraught after their 14-year-old daughter missed out on a life-saving liver transplant operation in London because the Irish government’s health service couldn’t find a suitable plane to transfer her to England.
Housebound Meadbh McGivern has been waiting on a suitable liver organ donation since last August.
The Ballinamore family received a call last Saturday evening to tell them that a suitable liver had become available at the Kings College Hospital in England.
They were rushed to Sligo airport under a police escort and about to board a helicopter when health department officials cancelled the trip due to transport difficulties and a lack of suitable aircraft from government and commercial sources.
The only helicopter available wouldn’t have made it to London in time while a plane offered by the Irish air force was rejected by the health officials.
Dad Joe is at a loss to understand what went wrong and why his distressed daughter is now back on a waiting list.
“We have been waiting for this call from last August and to think that when we got it we couldn’t get out of the bloody country,” Joe told the Irish Independent.
“She will get another run at this but if that was a life-and-death situation we would have had a dead child on our hands.”
The initial problems began when the air force helicopter used in such circumstances was on a rescue mission in Kerry.
The health service then declined the offer of a fixed-wing plane from the Aer Corps and opted instead for a Coast Guard helicopter that just couldn’t meet the 10 hour deadline for organ transplants.
The McGivern family was already on board the helicopter when officials told them the trip was cancelled.
“The clock was ticking and hours had passed and we knew what was happening,” added Meadbh’s dad.
“With a live donor on life support you would have lots of time to get over there.
“We actually started to ring our own friends to see if anyone knew anyone with a helicopter or a plane or any other way to get there.
“Confusion, incompetence; I don’t know what you call it. We are not pointing the blame at anyone, we are just hurt and shocked.”