As part of Organ Donation Week, Kelly McAllister spoke to Máirtín McGabhann whose son needs a new heart.
The father of a 22-month-old toddler in need of a heart transplant says improving the organ donation infrastructure in the North and increasing public awareness is just as important as putting an opt-out system in place.
Little Dáithí Mc Gabhann was born with a rare and life-threatening heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. When he was just four days old Dáithí had open heart surgery, five days later he had to get the same surgery again.
In January this year, his parents were told that because the toddler has a leak in his heart, surgery was no longer an option. Now Dáithí’s only chance at survival is with a heart transplant.
Speaking to VIEWdigital, Dáithí’s father Máirtín said: “Because they can’t repair the leak in the valve, they can’t do the third surgery that he was meant to get. Without that it will just be a matter of time before he dies if he doesn’t get a heart transplant.”
Despite having a very serious heart condition, Dad Máirtín says that little Dáithí is the healthiest he has ever been.
“He’s not in hospital at the minute, he’s learning to walk, he’s talking and climbing the stairs. He is doing all the normal things.
“He’s a wee normal baby, he doesn’t look sick. He has got a feeding tube that’s about it, other than that it’s sometimes hard to convince people that he is a really sick child.”
Máirtín has been actively trying to increase public awareness around organ donation. The west Belfast dad feels that there is not enough conversation surrounding the topic.
“There is 43 percent of the population here in the North registered as an organ donor and although it’s growing, as a parent whose son needs a transplant, it’s very low to me. We need to get the message out there.
“It’s a subject that nobody wants to talk about or ever think about, but I am yet to meet anybody that hasn’t been willing to engage in a conversation with us about organ donation. When people meet Dáithí on the street it’s a personal touch. He’s a human being, not just a statistic.”
As a qualified teacher, Máirtín believes that an organ donation module would be beneficial in subjects such as Learning for Life and Work.
“I’m not saying try and make young people become organ donors, I’m saying let’s educate them.
“It seems to me that Scotland, Wales, England and the South are actively trying to improve. But in the North, there is kind of a hush, so where does that leave us?