“It was like watching Grey’s Anatomy where the doors swing open and the doctor comes out. I saw Dr Carton coming towards me with his head down and a nurse beside him and I thought ‘Oh God no, oh God, he’s gone’”.

Angeline Bradshaw’s husband Declan, from Newbridge, Co. Kildare, has been through much more than most. In January 2014, after contracting what was assumed to be just a severe case of the flu, Declan soon worsened and was admitted to intensive care, diagnosed with H1N1, also known as swine flu.

He was admitted to Naas General Hospital in late January 2014, and the medical team had him on an IV drip of antibiotics and for rehydration. When Declan didn’t respond to the treatment after two days, he was admitted to ICU and put on life support as his breathing had become very laboured.

“I was advised to fly my son home from New Zealand as Declan was deteriorating rapidly,” Angeline said.

Treatment in the Mater

After a short stay in St. James’ Hospital, Declan was transferred to the Mater Hospital to receive ECMO, a procedure where blood is removed from the body and re-oxygenated before being pumped back in. This way, Declan could receive artificial support to keep his heart and lungs operating, but there was no guarantee it would work.

“We met Dr Ed Carton, and he explained that Declan’s only hope of survival was ECMO. He and his team then proceeded to Declan’s room which now looked like a theatre.”

“His lungs had turned to cardboard,” said Angeline. “That was the longest hour and a half of my life. I saw Dr Carton coming towards me with his head down and a nurse beside him and I thought ‘Oh God no, oh God, he’s gone’. He was soaking to the skin with the pressure he was under but he said to me ‘We have Declan on ECMO, would you like to see him?’”

That was the first step in a long recovery that brought Declan back to full health, but the intervening time was a struggle, with Declan in a coma and no hint he was beating the devastating illness until he came off ECMO. If that wasn’t tough enough, Declan also had kidney failure, septicaemia, and contracted MRSA – a suite of illnesses that on their own would be a grave threat to a person’s life.

In complete isolation, Declan lost 4 stone but eventually came out of the coma five weeks after he was removed successfully from ECMO, and throughout those long weeks, Angeline and Stephen had incredible support from their family.

Recovery

“He had to learn how to walk again, eat again, and even to talk. That’s an awful lot of physio and at one point he threw in the towel. He was skin and bone but I had to encourage him, and he eventually listened and battled through it.”

“I remember it was 17 March, St. Patrick’s Day and I took him outside in the wheelchair and onto the North Circular Road. I was smiling and taking photos of him and sending them to family and friends, they didn’t know who this 70-year-old man was but to me he was looking fantastic. He said to me, ‘I’m walking off the ward Angeline, I am.’ And you know what; on 29 March he did, with the aid of a walking stick.” The photo above is Declan 1 year after ECMO.

Angeline’s incredible fundraising

Angeline couldn’t rest without doing something to support the Critical Care Unit in the Mater Hospital, and in particular, the work of Dr Carton and Serena O’Brien, the Head of Education. Considering she was a close friend and colleague of the late Joe Dolan, Angeline decided she would start a raffle for concert tickets for one of Ireland’s most famous country music stars, Nathan Carter.

Nathan has generously given 2 VIP Meet and Greet passes and 2 tickets to his New Year’s Show in the INEC Killarney, all to support patients and their families in the Mater who will face into a difficult Christmas period. The prize also include a 2-night stay in the 4* Arabutus Hotel in Killarney.

You can support patients just like Declan by entering the online draw where tickets are just €5, but you can purchase as many as you like. The draw closes at midnight on 11 December 2016 (draw now closed).

At the Mater Foundation, we want to thank Angeline and Declan for this amazing fundraising effort, as well as your contribution to improving patient care in the hospital!

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