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Irish heart recipient celebrates 38 years since surgery

The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital is today marking the 38th anniversary of the longest living heart transplant surgery in the country.

Andy Kavanagh was just 19-years-old when he underwent the surgery in 1986, under the care of Mr Maurice Neligan and Mr Freddie Wood.

Thirty eight years after the procedure, Mr Kavanagh from Coolock is a married father of one and a grandfather of three, who works in An Post.

He is just one year behind the longest surviving heart transplant patient in the world.

The average survival for a heart transplant is around 15 years.

Mr Kavanagh was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy after a flu type illness attacked the muscles of his heart when he was only 18 and a transplant was needed to save his life.

“My donor David was the same age as I was when he died and I was lucky enough to meet his family a year after my transplant,” Mr Kavanagh said.

“I put an ad into the paper on the one year anniversary to thank him and his family and then they contacted me. If it wasn’t for their decision, I may not be here today – organ donation saves lives.”

He said he is thankful every day to his donor David and his family who donated his organs, after he was tragically killed by a driver in 1986.

Mr Kavanagh was also diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and had to have a kidney removed.

Due to the anti-rejection medication he was taking for his heart his other kidney soon failed and he needed a kidney transplant, which he received in 2006.

The Mater began its heart transplant programme in 1985 and over 400 transplants have been conducted since.

Dr Emer Joyce, consultant cardiologist at the hospital, said that considering the prognosis now for heart transplant patients is much better than when Mr Kavanagh received his donor heart in 1986, his journey is remarkable, especially given the other health obstacles he has faced.

Read more: Ireland’s first joint heart and liver transplant a success

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