Daughter of late Kevin Deehan who died of COVID-19 last week speaks of ‘void that can never be filled’ and vows to fight in his memory for ECMO machines for Derry citizens

The daughter of Kevin Deehan who died with COVID-19 on Thursday has said his passing has left a ‘void that can never be filled’ for her family.

By Kevin Mullan
Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 3:35 pm

Kaydie Deehan-Krokkee, speaking yesterday on what would have been her father’s 63rd birthday, also vowed to campaign for specialist extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment for people from the north.

She believes ECMO treatment which is available for some critically-ill patients in England and in the south should have been an option for her father.

The well-known Derry business man was laid to rest following Requiem Mass at the Long Tower on Saturday.

Born and reared in Westland Street in the Bogside he is mourned by his wife Katrina and children Joseph, Gareth, Kaydie and Bethany and wider family circle.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday Kaydie paid a moving tribute to her late father.

“My daddy was a very wise, giving and caring person who had so much time for everybody as a parent and just as a member of a family.

“We could never look at him and say he could have done anything different. He was a flawless, father, uncle, cousin, brother and friend.

“He was admired by many and his passing has left a huge void that can never be filled,” she said.

Kevin was known for his republican activism in Derry during the conflict.

“He grew up in the Bogside and he saw the injustices as a child growing up and he fought for his people and his community.

“He continued to do so in his later life with the support that he would give to communities and fundraisers.

“One big thing about my father is that he would never back down. He was an absolute fighter and fought for what he believed in. At the end of it all this is a loss that is felt not just by his family and friends but by a community. For his family and friends a part of us went with him. He’ll never be forgotten,” said Kaydie.

Kevin spent 50 days in hospital, much of it in the Altnagelvin Intensive Care Unit (ICU), after testing positive with coronavirus in February.

The treatment he received from the medical staff at the Derry hospital was exemplary.

“I want to thank the doctors, nurses and everybody in there who have tried so hard. It’s unbelievable what they do. People really don’t see what they do. They are amazing and have really tried their best but they have limited resources,” she said.

The Deehan family have said they want to highlight the need for better health care provision in the north. At present specialist ECMO machines that can make a difference to outcomes for patients who suffer critically low blood oxygen levels after ventilation are not available in the north.

Kaydie says every avenue should be explored to allow patients from the north to access ECMO.

Martina Anderson raises case of critically-ill Derry father in calling for ECMO purchaseShe is calling for the Health Minister Robin Swann to open talks with his counterpart Stephen Donnelly about opening up oxygenation treatment to patients here in the same way that radiotherapy, stent and children’s cardiac services are open on a cross-border basis.

“I want to fight for the people here in Altnagelvin and across the north that are not getting access to these machines in England because of their location. We are also being denied access to the machines in the south.

“It has been an absolutely horrific journey for us and every other family and we’ve all been denied a basic human right.

“The people in the north are not being granted access to this machine or even being provided with one.

“Hospitals in the north can only apply to England when there are machines in the south and we are not allowed to access them,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “ECMO is a highly specialised service which may be clinically appropriate for some patients who have a critical condition which prevents the lungs or heart from working normally.

“NI patients requiring ECMO, including those patients with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, can access this treatment if needed via transfer to England.

“However, many patients in critical care with COVID-19 are not suitable for ECMO due to underlying health problems.

“Clinicians can make a referral through an electronic centrally managed referral process, therefore ensuring equitable access to this treatment for NI patients who need it.

“During the pandemic, a number of patients from Northern Ireland have been transferred to hospital in England for treatment using ECMO.

“NI does not provide ECMO services locally due to the size of our population. The small numbers requiring such a service would make it challenging for a clinical team to maintain the highly specialist skills required and thus a safe and effective service would not be sustainable.”

The ‘Journal’ asked the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the south about the possibility of patients from the north accessing ECMO treatment but we had not received a response as we went to Press on Monday.

Sinn Féin MLA Martin Anderson expressed condolences with the Deehan family.

A year ago she raised the case of another critically-ill Derry father with COVID-19 and called for the provision of life-saving ECMO treatment for citizens here.

“It seems these services, shockingly, are still not in place. This is a year on into this pandemic. There have been a number of patients from Derry who would have benefited from this state-of-the-art oxygenation machine.

“When a treatment could potentially save someone’s life then all steps should be taken by the health service and the Department to ensure all patients here have access to it,” she said.

Kaydie promised to continue to highlight the gap in provision in memory of her father.

“These machines are not just for COVID. They are for car crash victims. There is no way people here should be denied access to them.

“Forty years ago Altnagelvin didn’t have a life support machine. We have to start somewhere.”

But today she and her family are still struggling to come to terms with the unbearable loss of their beloved father.

“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s been an absolutely horrific experience,” she said.