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virus scare Belfast family's nightmare after child waiting for new heart tests positive for Covid-19

Brave four-year-old battled through dose of virus even though he has rare heart condition


Dáithí with his dad Máirtín

Dáithí with his dad Máirtín

Dáithí with his dad Máirtín

The father of a four-year-old Belfast boy waiting for a heart transplant has spoken of his shock and fear after his son tested positive for Covid-19.

Máirtín Mac Gabahann's son Dáithí, who has now been on the organ donor waiting list for 1,000 days, got through coronavirus having suffered only minor symptoms, but the positive test sent shockwaves through his family due to the brave tot's fragile heart condition, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

Given just a 10pc chance of survival, Dáithí is just one of three children in Northern Ireland waiting for a heart transplant.

Dad Máirtín said: "My mother had a kidney removed just before Christmas, so we were being really careful around her. She became just as much of a worry as Dáithí in terms of trying to shield her from Covid-19.

“She had to go and see the doctor after her operation, but before she was allowed in she had to get a routine coronavirus test. She then tested positive, and we thought just to be on the safe side we should get Dáithí tested as well.

“So all of us got tested, and me and Dáithí’s mum Seph came back negative. Because we had tested negative we thought Dáithí would, too.

“But then at 10 o'clock that night, on February 10, the message came through saying Dáithí was positive. It was really shocking because he didn't have any bad symptoms – just seeing the word 'positive' was really scary. He did have a little temperature and a bit of a cough, but Dáithí does get those things because of his condition so we just treated him as we normally would.”


Dáithí with mum Seph

Dáithí with mum Seph

Dáithí with mum Seph

Ironically, while Dáithí got through his dose of the virus with little complications, his dad wasn't so lucky.

He came down with it heavy, and was bedridden and left struggling to breathe as a result.

He explained: “In terms of the virus, thankfully Dáithí just flew through it. That's not to play it down because personally I've seen how bad it can be. It just shows how everybody is different.

“Even though I initially tested negative, I soon came down with the virus. I'm only getting back to myself now. Even after the worst of it is over I'm still struggling for breath going up and down the stairs.

“At one stage my temperature was touching 40 and I was so bad we were thinking about ringing an ambulance. Then I started to feel a good bit better and I started to think that I was getting over the worst of it.

“Before you know it started having even worse breathing problems than before. It was almost like it came in different stages.”

As Dáithí still waits for a new heart there is hope that if Northern Ireland changes to a soft opt-out organ donation program, the mechanisms of which have begun to take shape at Stormont, rather than relying on people to opt-in to organ donation, organs will become more widely available to children and adults alike who are in similar situations to the young lad.

Máirtín also explained how, as a result of his son's positive test, he was actually taken off the waiting list for a transplant for a period of time.

“The worst thing about it was that he was suspended from the transplant list for two weeks. The chances of him getting a new heart in those two weeks were slim to nil because of the current situation, it was just the fact that he was taken off the list and suspended until he got a negative test.

“This week he was a thousand days on the list, but we are looking at it as a very positive thing, that he’s still here with us. He's been fighting for a thousand days, he's been fighting all his life really, and it's just really a testament to Dáithí and his strength, that he’s still here.”

He added: “It's kind of a double-edged sword in that the healthier he is the less chance he has of getting his new heart. That’s just because there aren't enough organs to meet the need of people waiting, so the system is based on not only having a match, but urgency as well.”

In terms of his own experience with Covid-19, Máirtín urged the public to take the disease seriously so they don't have to go through what he went through recently – or worse.

“I see people putting things onto social media saying ‘it's just like getting the cold’. Those people who have only suffered small side-effects should definitely count themselves lucky, because it's not like that for everybody, and it's killing people.”

For more information on Dáithí and soft opt-out organ donation visit donate4dáithí on Facebook.

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