Among the hundreds who attended a special celebration in Newcastle last week was Dungiven lad Ryan O’Connor.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old said it was an emotional day as he gathered with other transplant patients from across the UK in Tyneside to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Freeman Hospital’s Heart and Lung Transplant Programme.
Since 1985, 2,000 heart and lung transplants have been carried out at the Freeman, in both children and adults, including Ryan, who was born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD).
In November 2012 he had a long awaited heart transplant .
Following the transplant he had a cardiac arrest and, later, tragically had to have both legs amputated from above the knee.
The amputation was initially a success, but Ryan later suffered an aneurysm as his body adjusted to the new heart.
However, Ryan continues to inspire his loved ones, friends and strangers, playing for Ulster GAA hurlers’ wheelchair team and the North West Eagles basketball team in Derry.