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Mother speaks of ‘miracle’ heart transplant that saved daughter

Jessica born with a suspected heart murmur and diagnosed with fatal heart conditions

Jessica was eight months on life support, when in early Autumn 2015 they received a call to tell them that a donor heart had become available. Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography.

A mother has spoken of her gratitude to the donor who made possible a life-saving heart transplant for her daughter.

Elaine McMahon (25) and her partner Stephen Hall (26) from Clontibret, Co Monaghan, already had a four year old son, Daniel, when Elaine gave birth to a baby girl, Jessica.

Jessica was born with a suspected heart murmur which led to a diagnosis of two potentially fatal heart conditions.

As her health deteriorated, Jessica’s parents learned their daughter’s only chance of survival was a heart transplant. Following a catalogue of serious health battles including cardiac arrest she was put on life support at Crumlin Children’s Hospital while waiting for a donor heart to become available.

Baby Jessica suffered multiple infections and by July 2015, after multi-organ failure, her chances of survival looked bleak.

Elaine stayed by her bedside only to leave late at night to stay nearby in the Ronald McDonald House in Crumlin.

Jessica was eight months on life support, when in early Autumn 2015 they received a call to tell them that a donor heart had become available.

At just nine months old, she was flown by Air Corps to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for her life-saving heart transplant.

“Jessica has never looked back since that day. Since November she has been back home with us,” said Elaine.

“When she came home she was so small and fragile like a newborn but quickly started to catch up on all the development stages other babies of her age would have gone through.

“She has had to learn to suck a bottle again as she was previously fed from a tube. Her progress has been amazing since she came home.

“Her personality is now beginning to shine through and she is a really good baby.

“My whole family share in our love for her heart donor who we will never know. If the call hadn’t come through for a donor heart she would not be with us here today. Jessica is a miracle,” she said.

Elaine said as busy young mother she had never thought about organ donation but hopes that by sharing her story, more lives can be saved.

Jessica is now 16 months old and to mark the beginning of Organ Donor Awareness Week Elaine put a video of her baby’ on Facebook page “Have A Heart For Jessica”.

The Irish Kidney Association says there are approximately 550 people in Ireland awaiting lifesaving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants.

Organ Donor Awareness Week 2016 (April 2nd to 9th) is organised by the Irish Kidney Association. You can text “kidney” to 50300 and €2 will be donated from your mobile phone account to the Irish Kidney Association.

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association LoCall 1890 543639 or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050.

It is now possible to store an organ donor card, the ‘ecard’ on Smart mobile phones; search for ‘Donor ECard’ at the iPhone Store or Android Market Place.

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