A proud Cork grandmother has given thanks to “all the Corkonians” who supported one-year-old baby Emma, who recently received a world-first transplant of a new intestine, stomach, liver, pancreas and spleen.
Helen O’Sullivan is originally from Blarney but has been living in Spain since the 1970s. She says her granddaughter Emma, who is now almost a year and a half old, is “absolutely thriving” after receiving a lifesaving transplant at the La Paz hospital in Madrid.
Speaking onwith PJ Coogan, Ms O’Sullivan explained that her granddaughter was born with a bowel that was too short, had been in hospital for six months after her birth, and had been through four unsuccessful operations.
As Emma’s condition continued to deteriorate, her surgical team had no choice but to try to carry out a ground breaking operation, after only three years of research, knowing that the bowel is the part of the body that poses the highest risk of transplant failure.
Baby Emma has now become the first person in the world to receive a successful intestine transplant, and also received a new liver, stomach, spleen and pancreas.
“We got back a new baby,” said Ms O’Sullivan, speaking about the extensive nature of the transplant, which took 14 hours in total to complete – a wait which was agony for Emma’s family.
“It was the worst day of our lives, and at the same time the best day,” she said.
Ms O’Sullivan commended the hard work and humanity of the world leading surgeons in the Madrid hospital.
She added that the chief surgeon not only saved Emma’s life, but saved the lives of their whole family.
“He saved all our lives, he gave us all back a little quality of life which we hadn’t, we had no quality at all,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
Ms O’Sullivan paid tribute to the family of Emma’s donor, for whom she said it must be “very sad”.
“It must be very sad for the donor, as you can imagine their baby died and saved our baby’s life,” she said.
Not forgetting her Cork roots, Ms O’Sullivan also thanked “all the Corkonians” who supported them, from Blarney to Cork city and many places in between.
“Up the rebels… Thanks a million to everybody in Cork, God bless everybody in Cork,” she said.