Five-year-old Celtic fan waiting for a heart transplant delighted by Rangers signed football

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A five-year-old Celtic fan waiting for a heart transplant was delighted when rivals Rangers gave him a signed football.

Little Dáithí Mac Gabhann was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome - a heart defect which means only half the organ works.

Dáithí, from Ballymurphy, west Belfast, was flown to London after he was born where he underwent open heart surgery when he was just four days old.

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Medics told his devastated parents Máirtín Mac Gabhann, 31, and Seph Ní Mhealláin, 26, he only had a ten per cent chance of survival and asked if they would like to withdraw his life support.

But miraculously Dáithí opened his eyes and his parents decided to keep fighting for their son, who went on to have a second heart surgery when he was ten days old.

Máirtín Mac Gabhann/SWNSMáirtín Mac Gabhann/SWNS
Máirtín Mac Gabhann/SWNS

He has been waiting for a heart transplant for more than three years while his parents have campaigned for a change in organ donation laws in Northern Ireland.

Celtic daft Dáithí attended his first Hoops match on Saturday and was buzzing when fans unfurled a campaign banner during the game.

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And secondary school teacher dad Máirtín said they were delighted after reaching out to rivals Rangers to see if they could help and were sent a signed ball.

An adorable snap of Dáithí in his Celtic top holding the Rangers ball attracted thousands of likes on Twitter with fans hailing 'somethings are bigger than football'.

Dad Máirtín said: "Dáithí is a huge Celtic fan, he loves Joe Hart because he has a name like his special heart, and of course he loves Kyogo.

"We decided to reach out to Rangers to see if they could do anything to help the campaign. They responded immediately and sent a signed football.

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"No amount of money can save our son's life but raising more awareness about organ donation can and it is amazing Rangers were able to help us.

"We were at the Celtic match on Saturday, it was Dáithí's first time at a game. The supporters unveiled a huge 30ft flag with our campaign on it which was fantastic and Dáithí was over the moon.

“When he saw it, he just kept screaming 'it's me', he was thrilled. The Celtic fans made it extra special for us and the post with Dáithí in the Celtic shirt holding the signed Rangers ball has helped take our campaign to the next level."

Dáithí spent the first 46 days of his life in intensive care at the Evelina London Children's Hospital before going back to Belfast.

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He was in hospital for the next six months before being allowed home. In January 2018 a leak in his heart valve was discovered and Dáithí's parents were told his only hope was a heart transplant.

Máirtín and his fiancé Seph, who is a full-time carer for their son, have spent more than three years campaigning to raise awareness of the need for more organ donors.

They want soft opt-out organ donation for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK without such a system.

Máirtín said: "Scotland has changed the laws around organ donation to an opt out system which is what we have been campaigning for.

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"We are at the final consideration stage for a change in the law in Northern Ireland.

"In January 2018 we found out Dáithí had a leak in a heart valve and we were told that a transplant was our only hope.

"He was accepted to the transplant list in June 2018 and I started to research organ donation. I knew we needed to raise more awareness about it and decided to start a campaign.

"We thought it would really only get attention in Belfast but his story just exploded. We realised sport was a fantastic way to get the message out there, the power of sport is just incredible.

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"We want to normalise conversation about organ donation and we hope by doing that it will save someone's life. We were told Dáithí would be waiting between one and three years for a transplant but he already has been waiting three and a half years now.

"It's no-one's fault, it's just the way it is and we are anticipating a long wait, we don't think he'll get a new heart anytime soon.

"But we are so grateful that Dáithí is stable and has been able to stay at home with us, and do things like go to the Celtic game.

"Things can change so quickly with heart defects so we feel incredibly lucky he is stable and hope he stays well."

Visit the Donate4Dáithí campaign online here.

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