Heart transplant survivor reunited with Derry GP

Michelle Crawford, left, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her heart transplant, chatting to Dr. Keith Munro, who was her GP at the time, and Marelle O'Neill, practice manager, when she paid a visit to Clarendon Medical on Friday. Michelle was the second person, and youngest, to undergo heart teransplant surgery in Northern Ireland. INLS1012-138KM

Michelle Crawford, left, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her heart transplant, chatting to Dr. Keith Munro, who was her GP at the time, and Marelle O'Neill, practice manager, when she paid a visit to Clarendon Medical on Friday. Michelle was the second person, and youngest, to undergo heart teransplant surgery in Northern Ireland. INLS1012-138KM

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Clarendon Medical Practice hosted a touching reunion on Friday when Michelle Crawford, the youngest person ever to survive a heart transplant operation, met with her former GP, Dr. Keith Munro.

Clooney born, Ms Crawford, who last month celebrated the twentieth anniversary of her operation, was first treated by local GP Dr. Munro as a child. She underwent her transplant operation at Harefield Hospital, England on Valentine’s Day 1992. The bond between doctor and patient is such that she still sends her former GP a Christmas card every year, adding: “It’s the least I can do. I credit him with saving my life every bit as much as the surgeons at Harefield,” said Michelle. “My family knew that there was something seriously wrong with me but Dr. Munro was the first to really push it and demand some answers.”

In what was clearly an emotional reunion for the pair they discussed the day when, aged 14, Michelle officially opened the purpose built Clarendon Medical Centre in 1994. Michelle recalls: “I remember being really nervous and honoured at the same time when they asked me to unveil the plaque.” That plaque still hangs by the door of the centre. As they speak, many other former patients of Dr. Munroe stop to say hello and wish him well. Now Chief Executive of the Foyle Hospice, Dr. Munro, said: “I never thought that we would be standing here together twenty years later. You didn’t dare think that far ahead Michelle was so ill.”

Michelle adds: “It was that bad my parents were asked to think about what they were going to do with the money they had raised to help with travel costs should I die. Dr. Munro pushed and pushed not only to find out what was wrong but, after I was diagnosed, he worked just as hard to ensure I had a good quality of life.”

Dr. Munro, who worked as a GP in Clarendon Medical Practice from 1970 - 2003, revealed that Michelle is not only the youngest ever person to have a heart transplant but that she is one of the longest surviving post transplant patients in Northern Ireland: “It is truly amazing standing here talking to her, thinking of everything she went through and all the trials she faced as a young person. I’d have to think hard to recall a more remarkable story. It is good to have good news for a change and Michelle should enjoy everyday for there were times we thought she wouldn’t have that many.”

Asked does he miss his work, Dr. Munro replied: “No. I don’t miss it. I miss the staff but I’m not sure I could come back.

“Medicine has all changed since I started practising 42 years ago. I think lots of patients feel that too. When I started you looked patients in the eye, you listened to them, today you’re allowed either five or ten minutes depending on their appointment type. Everything is computerised but when I started there was no computers.”

Michelle Crawford is one patient who will forever be thankful for Dr. Munro’s friendly ear.

To sign up to the organ donar register log onto www.uktransplant.org.uk/

“It only takes a few minutes to sign up,” said Michelle Crawford and it can save more than a number of lives but whole families also.”