02 December 2005

Family hopes for gift of life this Christmas

Belfast Telegraph

By Clare Weir
02 December 2005

The mother of a Derry boy waiting for a new heart today spoke of her mixed emotions as she plans a special Christmas for her three-year-old son Paul.

Bella Donnelly said she is on "tenterhooks" after another visit to the top English hospital where the live-saving operation will take place.

While the family are making plans to ensure Paul enjoys a great Christmas, Bella said it was sad to think that another child has to die in order for him to survive.

Paul and his mum have just returned to their Hazelbank home after another visit to the world-renowned Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, where they met with the two surgeons who will eventually perform the operation if and when a heart becomes available.

Paul, who suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy - an incurable enlargement of the heart - recently received a new pacemaker, the second he has had fitted in his short life.

The Hazelbank playgroup pupil was added to the standby heart transplant list in July, and has since been upgraded to an "active" list, meaning that his family will have to jet to England as soon as a suitable heart becomes available.

Paul's mum Bella told the Telegraph that every day was now a "waiting game".

"We have always had to take things one day at a time but we are really playing the waiting game now," she said.

"Because Paul is actively on the list, we could get the call at any time. It's sad to think that his life depends on the death of another child, but we've exhausted all the options.

"If he doesn't have a transplant then there's nothing else we can do. We met the surgeons over in Newcastle this week so we'll have to play it by ear.

"It's all systems go because this is the only thing that can save his life."

Paul, who also suffers from a weak immune system, has been given the flu vaccine and last week was so ill he needed oxygen and a nebuliser because of the pressure on his lungs from his enlarged heart.

But Bella says that she and his brother and sister are hoping to cheer him up with a Christmas treat.

"When he first got really sick we got people to send him 'get well' cards and in the end we got hundreds from people all over the world," she said.

"Now we are planning a big Christmas with lots of lights and decorations and we hope it will give him a wee lift."

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