‘I am so blessed and so lucky’

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A 39-YEAR-OLD organ transplant recipient, who received a kidney from a deceased donor in 2016, is speaking out about her experience ahead of Organ Donor Awareness Week to show the impact the organ donation has had and to express her “massive gratitude” to the family of her donor.

Lorna O’Leary, from Belgard Heights in Tallaght, was born premature and diagnosed with declining kidney function as a child. This led to one of her kidneys being removed when she was four years old, with her remaining kidney not functioning to full capacity.

Lorna OLeara 04

Lorna O'Leary.

Ms O’Leary then suffered from renal failure, which she described as having “a slow decline” in her case, before eventually being added to a transplant waiting list and, ten months afterwards, being given a kidney in March 2016.

Explaining her health issues before the transplant, Ms O’Leary, who works as a nanny and is a qualified Montessori teacher, told The Echo: “Going into renal failure, my body constantly adjusted – I had a slow decline, not a rapid decline.

“Once I hit stage four of renal failure, I went into stage five a lot quicker as I got a bad virus.”

Ms O’Leary then waited over a year to be added to the transplant list, as her smear tests were not coming back clear as a result of her kidney failure, and after undergoing three rounds of laser treatment to treat abnormal cells in her cervix she got a clear test and was added to the list.

“It’s difficult to describe, but I genuinely felt that renal failure was like the worst hangover of your life, every day,” explained Ms O’Leary.

“I had tiredness, I was nauseous and I had no energy.”

Having stayed off dialysis treatment during the course of her illness, Ms O’Leary then began receiving dialysis four weeks before she received her transplant.

“I was very lucky that I managed to hold off doing dialysis for so long, and it was really the Christmas before I got the transplant where I thought I needed to cop on and do dialysis, because I was retaining too much fluid.”

Ms O’Leary has had a new lease of life since receiving her transplant, and is appreciative of the change it has made to her quality of life.

“Getting the transplant was absolutely brilliant, I felt that that hungover feeling had gone.

“I’m so blessed and very lucky, because the kidney I got is super and I’ve had no rejection episodes.

“I have massive gratitude for my donor and his family – I get very emotional even thinking about him.”

The childcare worker made several attempts to write to the family of her donor, but found it difficult to express her immense gratitude to the family of her donor, before anonymously sending a letter to them last November via the organ transplant coordinator at Beaumont Hospital – as she didn’t want another Christmas to go by without her acknowledging, to her donor’s family, the impact the kidney transplant has had.

“It was really tough [to write the letter], I think I crumpled up ten letters.

“It’s very hard to know how to thank somebody for something like this.

“Even though I wrote them a letter and sent it off in November, I thought, ‘Is it enough?’,” said Ms O’Leary.

Now Ms O’Leary, who has always had an interest in fitness and keeping active, walks her dog, Max, every morning before work and is determined to make the best of her new lease of life.

Ms O’Leary said: “I’m forever grateful to my donor. I’m doing my best to live my life every day, for my donor and for myself.”

Organ Donor Awareness Week will take place from March 30 to April 6, and Lorna will be one of many Irish Kidney Association volunteers who will be distributing organ donor cards and selling Forget Me Not flower emblems and other merchandise for the charity during the week.

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