‘I’m grateful for my super-hero heart donor'

By Brendan Grehan

LUCAN MAN, Ken Mulkerrins, is embracing life. A father of two from Lucan, Ken underwent a life-saving heart transplant after several false calls.

Ken recently took part in a Quest Adventure Race in Glendalough which involves a 12km cycle, an 8km run and a 1k swim. A former Irish Freestyle Kayaking champion, Ken is grateful for his ‘super-hero heart donor’.

Ken Mulkerrins heart transplant recipient from Lucan speaking at national launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2019

Ken Mulkerrins sharing his story in support of organ donor awareness week.

In September 2016 the Product Developer returned to work full-time with Kilsaran Concrete in Kilcullen, Co Kildare which was a year to the day after being told his survival was dependent on receiving a heart transplant.

The father of two told The Echo: “I was born with a congenital heart disease, Pulmonary Stenosis, and underwent open heart surgery at Crumlin Children’s Hospital to correct this when I was just eleven months old. I enjoyed a normal active childhood and was always passionate about sport. For almost ten years I competed as a member of the Irish Freestyle Kayaking Team.”

In 2001, Ken’s health took a nosedive when he was struck down with Leptospirosis, which is more commonly known as Weil’s disease, a bacteria which he caught from kayaking in river water.

While being treated for this it was discovered that there was a hole in the valve to his heart, the same valve that had been operated on when he was a baby. Joe underwent an operation under Dr Kevin Walsh at the Mater Private to correct this.

It was after a kayaking excursion to Uganda in 2004 that Ken became very ill. When he returned to Ireland his heart was fitted with an ICD device (Implantable cardioverter defibrillators) which worked well in controlling his heart rhythm for over a decade.

By September 2015 Ken’s health had deteriorated considerably, and he was fitted with a biventricular defibrillator.

Ken was then told that he would need a heart transplant.

His wife, Pamela, a secondary school teacher, had to continue to work while visiting him and caring for their two young children.

During this time, he got seven ‘false calls’ as on seven different occasions he was told that a donor heart which had become available was not compatible. However, one winter night in 2016, he was told a donor heart was available, and this time it was compatible. This was to be the catalyst to my life being saved. It was a case of eighth time lucky.

Ken told The Echo: “It’s difficult to put into words what my heart transplant means to me and my family. I have come from very tough times being gravely ill in a hospital bed and only being able to see my young children for an hour at the weekends, to being able to play ball with them, go cycling and take part in triathlons and other adventure sports. Not only was my life saved that day back in 2016, but the life of my wife, kids and other families were too.

“I would encourage people to have the chat about organ donation and carry a donor card or sign up to be a donor on your driver’s licence. Not all super-heroes wear capes and in this case my super-hero heart donor saved my life.”

Ken is sharing his health story in support of the Irish Kidney Association’s Organ Donor Awareness Week 2019.


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