Ciaran Finn-Lynch, who became the first child in the world to undergo a groundbreaking trachea transplant in March this year, is set to return home to Northern Ireland.
Ciaran underwent the transplant, which involved the removal of his own trachea replaced by a donor windpipe, at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Doctors then used Ciaran’s own stem cells from inside his body to build up the donor windpipe and ensure the organ was not rejected.
Four weeks ago, doctors were able to describe the transplant as a success for the first time after proving vascular supply had returned to the trachea.
Colleen and Paul, Ciaran’s parents, said: “We cannot thank all the staff involved in Ciaran’s transplant enough. When they initially suggested the procedure we agreed to it, knowing it would be the first time it had been tried in a child, as we have 100 per cent faith in them and the work they do. They were the best people in the world to treat our son.
“Ciaran has undergone some major operations in his life, even prior to this transplant in March. He is resilient and has kept his spirits up throughout. Two weeks ago he had a music lesson while he was on the intensive care unit, he played on the drums and he absolutely loved it. Ciaran’s spirit has never waned.
“We are obviously also incredibly grateful and indebted to Ciaran’s donor and are aware of the heartbreak that family went through in losing someone. They have displayed courage and selflessness and we would like to use this opportunity to urge people to think about signing up to the organ donor register.”
Ciaran’s transplant team was led by Professor Martin Elliott of Great Ormond Street Hospital, and comprised Professor Paolo Macchiarini, Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Professor Martin Birchall, Professor of Laryngology, University College London, and Dr Mark Lowdell, Royal Free Hospital.
Colleen experienced no difficulties during pregnancy that might have suggested all would not be well once Ciaran was born in July 1999.
On the day he was born, Ciaran’s lungs collapsed and he was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Ciaran was diagnosed with Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis, a condition which leaves sufferers with a very narrow windpipe, making breathing incredibly difficult.
Ciaran was placed on ECMO, a heart and lung machine, and aged six days he underwent major surgery to reconstruct his airways. He remained ventilated on intensive care for a further four months before being able to leave hospital.
When Ciaran was two and a half, a metal stent used to hold his airway open eroded into his aorta, causing airway bleeding. As a result he underwent further major surgery that involved replacing the damaged part of his trachea with part of a donor trachea. This surgery was complicated by a severe infection involving the trachea, and he underwent a further major operation to reconstruct his airway. He was finally able to leave hospital after eight months.
Ciaran lived a full and active life at home in Northern Ireland, able to do most of the same things as his peers, until November 2009 when a metal stent began to erode into his aorta, again causing a very severe bleed.
Ciaran underwent the pioneering transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital in March this year, just four weeks after a donor trachea was found in Italy. The donor organ was combined with Ciaran’s own stem cells at the Royal Free Hospital, and couriered to Great Ormond Street Hospital. This procedure was Ciaran’s only option due to the major operations he had undergone previously.
After a long period of recovery in hospital, doctors have been able to prove Ciaran’s stem cells are working and vascular function has returned to his trachea. Colleen & Paul describe Ciaran’s recovery period as a ‘rollercoaster’, but are pleased they will finally be able to return home.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, call the Organ Donor Register line on 0300 123 23 23, or log onto the website: www.organdonation.nhs.uk, or text the word 'SAVE' to 84118.
For further information please contact Hayley Dodman, Great Ormond Street Hospital press office on 020 7239 3126 or email email@example.com