herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

I will keep fighting for CF victims -- Luke's dad

SHATTERED: Grieving father pledges to continue HSE fight

THE father forced to tell his gravely ill son he was going to die has said he hopes his son's story will keep pressure on the HSE for better facilities for patients with cystic fibrosis.

Dublin man John Murtagh opened his heart about how his 22-year-old son Luke, who had the condition, had asked him from his hospital bed if he was going to die after getting a massive infection.

The two men embraced after John told his son he was going to die -- and the poignant moment was captured in a powerful image which is published again today.

Less than two days later, on May 8 last, Luke passed away.

John has been highly critical of treatment facilities for CF sufferers and delays in building a dedicated unit in St Vincent's Hospital.

Overwhelmed

Last week, he spoke to Joe Duffy on RTE's Liveline and the powerful pictures of father and son were published in the Herald the next day.

"I'm shattered to be honest. But I wanted to speak out. I just had to grab the opportunity. But I felt it was important for Luke, and that he would have done the same if he could," John explained.

John now hopes that by raising awareness of the lack of proper facilities for CF sufferers more will be done to make the proper care available, even though it is too late for Luke.

"I have been overwhelmed by the response since I spoke out, and I hope it can keep the pressure on the health authorities and Mary Harney to finally do something," John told the Herald.

"We have to continue the pressure, because cystic fibrosis sufferers in the North and in England, and in most other countries, have a much higher life expectancy than those here," John added. "It's simple. It's down to treatment. People live longer, much longer, in other places because they get better treatment."

John feels his son was "sentenced to death" when placed in a hospital ward with other patients.

He was not killed by the potentially fatal cystic fibrosis illness itself, but by a bug he picked up in a Dublin hospital.

"I remember a few weeks before Luke died when he was in hospital and he coughed up about three litres of blood, and he asked me then if he was dying," John remembered.

"I didn't know, so I told him 'if you find out you tell me, and if I find out I'll tell you' and that was a promise I kept. I was not going to lie to him.

"He actually asked me that question three times in all over the days, and the last time he asked me I couldn't lie. He just looked at me and it was like a delayed response. He went quiet, silent, and then he got out of the bed again and gave me another big hug."

As the tragic story of Luke Murtagh emerged, Fine Gael health spokesperson Dr James Reilly asked: "How many more young Irish people must die?"

He told the Herald: "It's upsetting for anybody with a heart. And it's even more upsetting for other CF sufferers and their families to see stories like this."

Passion

He hit out at Ms Harney, whom he believes has not put enough passion into getting a new CF unit built at St Vincent's Hospital.

Contracts for the €20m unit are due to be signed next week and it is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2012.

The comments were backed up Labour's health spokeswoman Jan O'Sullivan saying that they were "literally talking about the lives of young people".

cfeehan@herald.ie

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