Fingers crossed as NHS f lies Isabel to UK for life-saving op
SHE has endured several heartbreaking ‘false dawns’, and has been shamefully let down by our health service, but Isabel Terry’s 14-year wait for a life-saving transplant may now be over.
Isabel is one of the only people in Ireland waiting for a double lung and heart transplant. Last night she flew to the UK for a potentially lifesaving operation.
And, in a move that puts our HSE to shame, it took Britain’s health service to step in and fly her over to in Newcastle’s Royal Freeman Hospital for the operation.
The NHS yesterday arranged for a specially chartered private jet to fly Isabel over for the transplant, which was due to take place around 2am this morning.
The decision to send a jet follows the astonishing situation last month when the HSE refused to fly Isabel over for a pre-operative meeting at the Freeman.
Instead, it agreed to pay for her ferry fare and left her to arrange what would have been a gruelling 30-hour round-trip journey by land and sea to Newcastle.
But at the last minute, a mystery businessman paid for a private
Offered to pay for ferry fare
air ambulance to take Isabel, who needs a constant supply of oxygen, to Newcastle for the meeting instead.
To avoid any complications this time, the Freeman booked a plane to bring her over to them. It is unclear if the HSE will be asked to reimburse this cost.
Yesterday, Isabel received a call from her transplant team at the hospital, telling her that a set of lungs and a heart had become available.
It is the sixth time that the 41year-old has had such a call in the past 14 years – the length of time she has been waiting for a transplant. On previous occasions, the organs were found to be unsuitable.
The last time the Cork woman was called by her UK transplant team with three potential organs – about five years ago – the operation was cancelled as she was about to take off from Cork Airport. This time around, although the plane was about an hour late, she was still on course to undergo the operation as planned.
Isabel told the Mail just before she boarded the flight that she was, naturally, feeling nervous.
‘I am okay,’ she said. ‘I am a little nervous. I won’t know until very late whether it will be going ahead or not, and, if it does go ahead and they suit me, the organs will be transplanted straight away.’
Isabel travelled to the UK with her mother Deirdre. She was then taken from the airport to the hospital and between 9pm and 10pm last night, the organs were due to be retrieved. By about 11pm, she was due to be told if they were suitable.
If they are, the operation to transplant the organs would take 12-14 hours. Recovery time is estimated to be a month.
Isabel’s sister Julie, who was flying over to Newcastle this morning from Dublin, went with her to the airport yesterday.
She said: ‘She is nervous but at the same time, she has waited for this day for about 14 years and she has had five false alarms already. So, you have that at the back of your mind.
‘We are hoping, with fingers crossed, that this is going to go ahead. She was in good form. There were lots of friends calling in the morning to the house. She was very upbeat with friends who called to wish her well.
‘There is nothing straightforward about this and, because of all the scar tissue from previous operations, it is quite a complex case.
‘She’s getting organs that might have suited three people. So unless they are very, very sure that this is going to work, they are not going to waste the organs but, hopefully, this is the one that will go ahead.’ Her brother Peter added that their late father Oliver, who died in 2008, would have loved to have been around for this moment.
‘He would have been over the moon and delighted for her to have this chance,’ he said.
Isabel, who has had three openheart surgeries, was born with pulmonary atresia, which is a birth defect of the pulmonary valve that affects the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs.
She has been rushed to hospital a number of times, ready for transplants. In one case, while she was in the Mater Hospital, she was actually on the operating table when the transplant was called off.
Flight of hope: Isabel Terry, right, flew to the UK by chartered jet with her mother Deirdre