‘I would have loved to have met his fam­ily’

Drogheda Independent - - FRONT PAGE - By HU­BERT MUR­PHY

HEART trans­plant sur­vivor Martin Burke says he still thinks about the young man who gave him a sec­ond chance at life ex­actly 30 years ago this month.

The St Mary’s Vil­las man was given lit­tle hope when he de­vel­oped a heart prob­lem in early 1988. But within nine months, a donor heart be­came avail­abe and he has gone on to live a full and re­ward­ing life.

‘I thank the man that gave it to me’, he said. ‘He was in his early 20s and I would have loved to have met his fam­ily, but it didn’t hap­pen.’

A FORMER school prin­ci­pal is liv­ing proof that or­gan do­na­tion can truly save and change lives.

It was in early 1988 that Gal­way na­tive and St Mary’s Vil­las man Martin Burke suf­fered se­vere heart prob­lems and his chances of sur­vival were deemed very low.

But in Oc­to­ber of that year - ex­actly 30 years ago - he got a sec­ond chance at life.

A donor heart, be­long­ing to a man in his 20s, be­came avail­able and the rest was his­tory.

But to this day, Martin (77) still prays and of­fers masses for the young man whose heart he car­ries.

‘I don’t know who the donor is but I send a mass card each year,’ he states. He said he would have liked to have met the man’s fam­ily, but doesn’t think it will hap­pen now.

‘It is strange to think that I have an­other per­son’s heart in me but sci­ence is ex­tra­or­di­nary,’ Martin ad­mits. ‘It’s still go­ing strong so it must have been a good one. I think it is al­ways im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the donors.

When he un­der­went his surgery, un­der the guid­ance of Dr Nel­li­gan and Dr Wood, it was a rar­ity as there had only been 12 or 13 such op­er­a­tions be­fore then.

Martin, who, iron­i­cally, al­ways car­ried a donor card him­self, is one of just a few from that era who have lived so many years and he puts that down to a few things.

‘I don’t drink much and was al­ways pretty care­ful,’ he says. But at the age of 50, he felt he should help his heart by tak­ing up run­ning and run he did - to the very high­est level in Europe.

He be­came a key part of the Euro­pean Heart and Lung Cham­pi­onships and com­peted all over the con­ti­nent, from France to Aus­tria, Hol­land, Nor­way and Switzer­land.

His last Games were in 2008 when he two two sil­vers and a bronze.

‘I favoured the 400m and the 1500m as well as the 4000m,’ he states.

‘Life has been good since the trans­plant. I didn’t get a re­jec­tion and that’s the main thing.

‘I cel­e­brated my 77th birth­day on Oc­to­ber 12 but I don’t do the run­ning any­more. I mainly walk now and cy­cle a bit and only get ex­cited when Gal­way are in an All-Ire­land Fi­nal!’

With wife Lorna, he cel­e­brated his 50th wed­ding an­niver­sary in July. They have three children, two sons in Ber­lin and Lon­don and a daugh­ter in Don­abate.

‘I would ask peo­ple to be an or­gan donor. It saved my life,’ he added.

Martin Burke

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