A COMBER father is taking part in a Himalayan hike to raise funds for the charity that helped his son during his organ transplant journey. 

Ryan Caughey travelled to Nepal last Thursday to begin an 80-mile round trip to Everest Base Camp to raise money for the Royal Victoria Hospital Liver Support Group, a charity which in its near 25 year history has been supporting patients like Ryan’s son, Dylan.

Ten days after Dylan was born, he was diagnosed with Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), a rare metabolic condition which causes sufferers to be intolerant of many proteins.

The condition meant many visits to hospital for Dylan including around 15 admissions to the intensive care unit. The condition is so debilitating Dylan was on a heavily restricted diet for most of his life, with many foods being toxic to his body.

After being put on an organ transplant list in 2016, Dylan received the ‘life changing’ new liver in 2019. The transplant was a success and four years after receiving his liver, 19 year-old Dylan hasn’t needed any hospital treatment.

And Dylan’s transplant also meant new hope for another person on the transplant list as his liver was given to another patient.

“It was actually a domino transplant so Dylan’s liver, which just didn’t function for him, actually went to a recipient,” said Ryan.  

Before leaving for Nepal, Ryan spoke about his plans to travel to Everest base camp, while praising the team who tirelessly supported his son.

“Prior to lockdown I started going to the Mournes, like so many other people, and  it progressed from that, I always wanted to do something to raise  money for charity, after what my son, Dylan, had been through.

“We are flying to Nepal, then you get a second flight into Lukla Airport which is the most dangerous airport in the world and then it is an 80- mile round trek up to Everest Base Camp, 40 miles up and 40 back.”

“Over the last six months, I have been in the Mournes, walking as much as possible, just trying to get my fitness up as best as I can,” Ryan explained.

The Caughey family are familiar with the family of Daiti MacGabhann, whose father, Mairtin, has been spearheading efforts for an opt-out organ donation scheme, to ensure Northern Ireland falls in line with the rest of the UK, making live-saving organ transplants more accessible.

Ryan has praised the family’s tireless efforts, after a soft opt-out scheme for the province was amended by Westminster last Wednesday

“We actually know the family as both Daithi and Dylan are massive Belfast Giants fans,” said Ryan.

“It is amazing what they have achieved and is something that is going to benefit everybody..”

In addition to the praise for Daiti’s family, similar credit was passed to the Royal Victoria Hospital Liver Support Group, which has been key in supporting those in need of transplants like Dylan.

“They were invaluable really when we were going through the whole process from start to finish. From going on the transplant list, right up until after Dylan got his transplant,” said Ryan.

“Most of the people involved in the charity have been through the transplant process themselves. Things that you didn’t know the answers to, they were always there for support. They were constantly ringing to see how Dylan was getting on,” said Ryan.

Jim Kilpatrick, a spokesman from the liver support group, welcomed Ryan’s support and wished him luck on his lengthy journey.

“The RVH Liver Support Group is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and we are delighted that Ryan has nominated us as the beneficiary of his fundraising through this trek to Everest Base Camp,” he said.

“Ryan’s endeavour, in response to the support we provided to Dylan and his family at the time of his transplant back in 2019, is without doubt one of the most unusual we’ve encountered, and probably the most spectacular. 

“We wish him a safe journey, and many unforgettable images and memories to cherish afterwards. The funds Ryan raises will be used to financially support liver patients travelling outside Northern Ireland for treatment or transplant, and to provide equipment, education and services to the Regional Liver unit in the Royal,” added Jim.