This list literally meant life or death for the family. 3 weeks and 2 days after being listed.
Less than a month. It seems like a very short time, but when you have had 26 years of waiting, it would be endless to you too.
Average people don’t have much experience with this list, however for this family, they have had double the amount. 26 years each, dreaming of it, wishing for it and working towards it. Now finally it is a reality, because as of February, the McElhinney twins have both received successful lung transplants.
Amy and Jill McElhinney were born with cystic fibrosis, a disease which creates a build-up of mucus in the lungs. There is no cure for this genetic disease. The treatment is a lifelong mixture of medication, physiotherapy and IV’s, with the hopes of one day being put on the transplant list.
That hope became a reality, not once, but twice for the McElhinnney family, making them the first twins in Ireland to have successful lung transplants. Finally they can both say full sentences without gasping for air or coughing uncontrollably. The twins both tell me, it’s a cliché, but it really is the simple things, that people wouldn’t even think about, like “being able to go upstairs without an oxygen mask,” according to Amy. Jill says, “having a shower without being breathless, and going places without the need for a wheelchair.”
Having just recently gotten home from the hospital, Amy is in the very early stages of recovery. She went out for a walk today, it wasn’t far but she must start back immediately in order to get fit, and her lungs working to full function. She is on a course of steroids, to help her be stronger and better.
“Her sternum is still soft.” Jill, the older twin, says to me. Having gotten her own transplant surgery in September 2013, she knows all too well of the recovery road Amy faces. “I’ve had a year and a half to adapt and change, where Amy is still new to it all.” Knowing well, that with more and more done each day, Amy’s life will improve immensely.
9 months post operation, Jill completed the Women’s Mini Marathon and then at 11 months she climbed Croagh Patrick in celebration of her new lungs.
When speaking about their 9 hour surgery, they use their doctor’s first name and it is clear that they have built a close relationship with her, as the same doctor, Karen Redmond, performed the surgery on both girls.
No longer is there a buzz or a hum off an oxygen machine running constantly through the day and night. Their house is free from wires and tubes. For the first time in years, all members of the family are breathing air independently into their own lungs.