The family of a Donegal man have told the amazing story of how a nurse who herself received a life-saving transplant operation also saved the life of their son after he choked.
Little Jack Gallagher, son of Dungloe man Finian Gallagher and his wife Louise, began to choke while eating spaghetti and the situation looked dire.
The five-year-old was at the family’s home with Finian in Shankhill, in south Co Dublin when the disaster happened.
Finian told Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy how he immediately ran next door to their neighbour Lorna McSwiggan-Martin. Lorna is nurse by profession, but she has been off work in recent years while she waited for a kidney transplant.
Three and half years after suffering kidney failure, Lorna received a donor kidney in October and just five weeks later she helped to save Jack’s life.
Speaking on the RTE show last night, Jack’s mother Louise described the almost fatal incident as the “most traumatic time of our lives” and expressed the family’s gratitude to Lorna.
Although Lorna has not been able to work for a couple years, she said her emergency nurse training immediately sent her into “auto pilot”. Her first impulse on hearing that Jack was in trouble was to tell husband Richard to phone an ambulance as she ran next door.
She attempted the Heimlich manoeuvre on Jack, which proved unsuccessful, and quickly progressed to administering CPR. The boy was non-responsive and he went into cardiac arrest. His father ran to a nearby shop and retrieved a defibrillator, but the shock treatment was also unsuccessful.
Lorna described how she used all her strength as she continued with CPR for further 10 minutes, until the paramedics arrived. Jack was brought into the ambulance where he miraculously regained consciousness and sat up.
He was taken to the emergency department at Crumlin Children’s Hospital for an examination, which revealed that he escaped the traumatic incident without injury. Jack was monitored in hospital for two days and, on returning home, Lorna was his first visitor.
Louise described how Lorna and Jack “shared big hug that will stay in my heart forever”.
“He [Jack] didn’t understand what that hug meant to our family,” she said.
On the first night she spent in CHI Crumlin with Jack, Louise she sent a message to Lorna asking “how could I ever thank her?”
“The person who had saved Lorna’s life and had donated their organ to Lorna, in effect had carried through and it had carried on to Jack,” she added.
Lorna has a congenital renal condition and three and a half years ago, during the birth of her second child by C-section, went into kidney failure. Her daughter Nadia Rae Vale was two months premature, and she required CPR in the first minute of her life. Both mother and baby had to spend that first week apart in different hospitals, with Nadia in ICU at Holles Street and Lorna in St Vincent’s Hospital. Lorna said it was a “difficult time” but they received excellent medical care and three years on Nadia Rae Vale – meaning Ray of Hope – is thriving.
In describing the lead-up to her “totally unexpected” kidney transplant, Lorna said she was “absolutely delighted” when she got the news that a match had been found.
“I am so grateful to my donor and their family and the Irish Kidney Association and all they have done for me. Life has changed so much, life is so much better. I’m not tired all the time and I have things to look forward to,” she added.
Sitting beside his parents in the Late Late Show’s audience, Jack was accompanied by his twin sister Izzy.
When asked by host Ryan Tubridy about whether the situation was very serious, Lorna explained that as an emergency nurse she rarely panics, however in Jack’s case she was initially very worried.
Finian and Louise said they are still in shock and they believe that were it not for Lorna’s intervention, combined with a miracle, Jack would not be with them today.
Ending the interview, Tubridy announced that both families would receive complimentary tickets to see The Lion King at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.
He then addressed the audience and viewers saying: “That story drives home the need for everyone out there to have a family conversation this Christmas about organ donation.”