From malfunctioning landline to neighbourly lifeline – the story of 21-month-old Emily Byrne has as many twists as the cables in her local phone network.
Grappling with a highly unreliable landline, a cause of grave concern for the parents of a sick baby, Ann-Marie Byrne, Emily’s mother, spoke to the Irish Examiner in desperation in January 2018.
Diagnosed at 14 weeks with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the liver and bile ducts, Emily underwent corrective surgeries but ultimately required a transplant.
Ann-Marie, from Knockanore, Co Waterford, was terrified that because of problems with the landline, they would miss a call from King’s College Hospital in London where Emily was on the list for a liver transplant.
In the event, the landline problem was resolved by Eir. Emily could not avail of the first two operation dates because of sickness, but the transplant finally went ahead on January 11 this year, thanks to naval man John Fenton, in his mid-30s, who really did go above and beyond the call of neighbourly duty.
“John was a neighbour of my husband Seán growing up, and they were great friends. We’re both great friends with his wife Liz as well. John, along with five others outside the family put themselves forward to be Emily’s donor, but ultimately it was John that passed all the tests,” Ann-Marie said.
By the time the live transplant took place Emily was “against the clock”, Ann-Marie said.
John’s suitability was only finally determined after he’d been cut open and the left lobe of his liver became Emily’s life-saving organ.
He’s been doing fairly well since, while Emily did need further surgery and two periods in Crumlin hospital, Dublin.
She’s home for the past fortnight, and her “bubbly personality” is really showing through.
Ann-Marie contacted the Irish Examiner to highlight the importance of organ donation, and live transplants, although she’s also happy to report that the local school has had its landline sorted – good news for when Emily goes to school.
As for John? “He put his life on hold for a year. We can never thank him enough,” Ann-Marie said.