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new start Family of girl (6) who had heart transplant think 'constantly' of her donor

Aoife's had the best fun and laughs and it's all thanks to her donor and their family”

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Little Aoife Peppard

Little Aoife Peppard

Little Aoife Peppard

The mother of a girl (6) who had a heart transplant one year ago has said, “I constantly think of the family and donor.”

This is Organ Donor Awareness week and Michelle and Patrick Peppard said their daughter Aoife’s life, “is more normal now than ever before, even with a pandemic.”

“She's had the best fun, laughs, and experiences in the last 12 months and it is all thanks to her donor and their family.”

Aoife was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome where the left side of her heart did not develop.

She had her first open heart surgery when she was just 3 days old and her second at three months of age.

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Aoife pictured with her mum and dad Michelle and Patrick leaving Great Ormond Street Hospital after her heart transplant

Aoife pictured with her mum and dad Michelle and Patrick leaving Great Ormond Street Hospital after her heart transplant

Aoife pictured with her mum and dad Michelle and Patrick leaving Great Ormond Street Hospital after her heart transplant

She was not suitable for the third procedure and instead her parents were told the functioning (right) side of her heart was failing and she needed a transplant.

Michelle said, “there was nothing else that could be done for her from a medical or surgical point of view, so the only other option in those last couple of years had been a transplant.”

Along with Daire (10), Cian (8) and Daniel (24) they said, “we kept her safe and well with the expectation that something will come our way and we wanted her to be in the best possible shape for it.”

The couple will never forget the call from Children’s Health Ireland Crumlin saying, 'we've found a viable organ for Aoife.’

Michelle said, “Lockdown was starting so we wondered how is all this going to happen? There were lots of phone calls made, bags packed, medications, pumps and equipment to pack.”

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Aoife with her brothers Daire and Cian.

Aoife with her brothers Daire and Cian.

Aoife with her brothers Daire and Cian.

They left the boys with their grandparents and within 90 minutes they were in an ambulance and en route to Dublin Airport.

The transplant took place in Great Ormond Street Hospital the following morning.

“We handed her over to the anaesthetists, said goodbye and with no certainties left the room not knowing if we'd get her back at all.”

“It was around 4pm that day when the surgeon came to us to tell us the operation was a success and the heart was beating by itself.”

Aoife spent the first few days in ICU and Michelle said, “her first response was to Patrick, when he asked her to squeeze his hand if she could hear us, and she did.”

“Within a week Aoife was sitting up in bed painting a picture, smiling and laughing. Within 13 days she walked back in the front door of our home. Her recovery was fantastic, her recovery to date has been fantastic. The child is amazing.”

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Little Aoife Peppard

Little Aoife Peppard

Little Aoife Peppard

The couple says that all of the medical staff - doctors, surgeons, nurses - “are amazing. Our nurse Helene, in CHI Crumlin, is like family at this stage. Her care is exceptional.”

They said that children have a longer waiting time for a transplant “because the number of young organ donors remains static and it's so sad that children can die before they can receive an organ.”

“More organ donations from children and young people are needed to save the lives of children, babies. It is so important to have the hard conversation with your family and loved ones to become donors in your household. Please help to save a life.”

As they mark one year since Aoife’s transplant, they say she is now “tube, pump and IV free and eating as normal. It's a miracle.”

That day changed their lives for the better but they are acutely aware that it means another family had lost someone they loved.

Speaking from their home in Trim, county Meath, the couple said, “that’s the other side of things; there are parents somewhere remembering a terrible day in their lives.”

“It's unimaginable what they are going through and thanks to their decision to donate a heart, my family doesn't have to experience what they did.”

“I sometimes can't get my head around it, it hits you like a train wreck out of nowhere some days. I constantly think of the family and donor,” Michelle said.

“My family has been so, so incredibly lucky to get what Aoife needed. Please become a donor if you are not already."

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