Cystic fibrosis campaigner receives lung transplant after days on life support

Orla Tinsley’s new lungs are working well but next few days will be critical

Orla Tinsley: has just had a successful lung transplant operation in New York, having waited months for a suitable donor as her health deteriorated. Photograph: Alan Betson

Orla Tinsley: has just had a successful lung transplant operation in New York, having waited months for a suitable donor as her health deteriorated. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Cystic fibrosis campaigner Orla Tinsley was given a lung transplant on Thursday in a New York hospital.

The transplant operation, which was carried out successfully throughout Wednesday night and the early hours of Thursday, came after Ms Tinsley had been waiting months for a suitable donor as her own health deteriorated. She had recently been placed on life support.

The operation was carried out at New York Presbyterian Hospital and, although she was heavily sedated afterwards, Ms Tinsley’s new lungs were understood to be working well but the coming days will be critical.

“Orla has had the surgery and is now in recovery,” a family statement on her Facebook page read. “She will be going through a lot in the next few days so please keep her in your minds. We are not out of the woods yet but the trees are beginning to thin. Thanks for all your support and well wishes.”

With her going into surgery were her parents Brian and Patricia Tinsley, her brother Jack, and her close friend, Irish journalist Quentin Fottrell.

She has such capacity to accept each unexpected development, but she is also a fighter. These last five days she fought to stay in the game

Recalling Ms Tinsley’s mood immediately before the transplant operation, Fottrell said: “Orla was in such bright spirits – smiling and feeling upbeat: this was the time; this was meant to happen.”

Passionate campaigner

Ms Tinsley became a highly visible and effective campaigner for cystic fibrosis patients in Ireland and wrote several vivid and spirited articles for The Irish Times. Her passion impacted on politicians and healthcare workers alike, resulting in improved facilities, including a specialist CF ward at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin.

Fottrell spoke of her mood before the operation, which was complex and without a guarantee of success.

“I asked her how she felt before going in and she said she felt joy,” he said on Thursday night. “She was – as she has been throughout this whole journey – resilient and very courageous.

“She has such capacity to accept each unexpected development, but she is also a fighter. These last five days she fought to stay in the game.”

Speaking of the emotional roller coaster Ms Tinsley’s family and friends have been on, having gone through six previous false starts for transplant operations, Fottrell said: “There are many places you could be during the last week – a place of anger at this disease, and a place of powerlessness. And in between those two, there was a place of hope.”