Healthcare news

Mother of 'at risk' child requiring transplant criticises 'selfish' coronavirus stockpilers

Dáithí Mac Gabhann (3) with his mother, Seph, at home in west Belfast. He is on a waiting list for a heart transplant and has a severely weakened immune system.
Seanín Graham

THE mother of a three-year-old boy who requires a life-saving heart transplant has appealed to "selfish" people who are stockpiling hand sanitisers to think of vulnerable people - after she tried 11 different shops without success.

Little Dáithí Mac Gabhann from west Belfast has been highly susceptible to infection since birth, when he was given just a 10 per cent chance of survival following emergency surgery for a rare form of congenital heart disease.

While his parents say they have always been "really vigilant" about hygiene and infection control at home, his mother Seph Ní Mhealláin said she is now even more cautious as her only child is among the 'at risk' groups of becoming seriously ill if he contracts Covid-19.

She has taken Dáithí out of the nursery "which he loves" as a precautionary measure.

He is one of three children in the north who need a new heart as all other treatment options have been exhausted.

Speaking from hospital yesterday where Dáithí undergoes blood tests every three months, Ms Ní Mhealláin said she was horrified to hear of reports of thefts of alcohol wipes and sanitisers from hospitals and GP surgeries.

"We've had it drilled into us since Dáithí was born about the importance of constantly washing your hands, we've always been aware," she said.

"I carry santisers around with me but you can't be too careful now that Dáithí is running around and into everything.

"I realised on Tuesday that I had run out of hand sanitiser. I went into 11 different shops on the Falls Road and not one of them had any. I came home and finally found a spare bottle.

"These people who are buying in bulk don't take into consideration there are children with weakened immune systems and elderly who are compromised and can't get hold of stuff.

"People are becoming very selfish and I would ask them to stop stockpiling and think of others at risk."

A renal unit in the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald is among those where sanitisers have been taken, while a north Belfast GP surgery was also affected.

SDLP activist Heather Wilson posted a tweet earlier this week about a north Belfast GP surgery in which "someone lifted a bottle of cultan hand sanitizer off the reception counter on their way out the door".

"Taking from a busy GP surgery used by dozens of susceptible patients daily to store in your cupboard at home is height of idiocy and selfishness," she said.

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