Louise Cowman and her sister Emma O'Connor who donated a kidney to her. (Photo: Lisa Trainer)
Unfortunately, the scenario where someone you know will need a transplant to some part of their body is a very real prospect, with their lives in the hands of hopefully getting a donor that matches their body.
At any one time in Ireland there are between 550 and 600 people on waiting lists for organ transplants including heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.
As part of Organ Donor Awareness Week 2021, one Louth family has come forward to tell their remarkable story in the hope it will convince others to become a donor.
Four years ago, Dundalk hairdresser Emma O’Connor gave her sister Louise Cowman the ultimate gift, a donor kidney. Fortunately for Emma, she was not born with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a hereditary condition that usually remains dormant until those who have it reach middle age.
Several members of their family have been affected by the condition so the mother of two is very grateful they live in a time of medical advances and are grateful that because of organ donation so many of them have been given a second chance of life.
“I could donate my kidney to my sister Louise four years ago as I am fortunate not to have PKD” stated O’Connor who works for Peter Mark in Dundalk.
“Louise had suffered preeclampsia with her twins, and this sped up the progression of her kidney disease and she was struggling. Our father Joe Fitzpatrick had a kidney transplant nine years ago from a deceased donor and some of my aunts, an uncle and cousins had organ transplants too.”
Cowman, who works with the CDETB on the quality assurance of apprenticeships and further education courses, said, “I am so grateful to Emma for giving me the chance to live a full life again and my children feel grateful also as they can remember me when I was sick and had little energy.”
“My twins Andrew and Aoife who turned twelve years old during Organ Donor Awareness Week were only five when I went on the transplant waiting list. Our whole family feels very lucky that so many of us have been given a second chance through organ donation and transplantation.”
While Emma was able to help her sister out, the family have had to rely on organ donors in the past, with their cousin in Sweden the most recent recipient having received a kidney on the first day of Organ Donor Awareness Week.
The sisters are highlighting their family’s stories as a way of hopefully inspiring others to make the decision to become donor card holders.
“Families of living and deceased donors make huge sacrifices. So many members of our family are living proof of the legacy of the selfless act of organ donation. That’s why we are supporting the Irish Kidney Association in helping to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation.”
Whilst many things have been put on pause during the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for organ donation and transplantation continues.
Despite the unprecedented challenges which the pandemic has presented, organ transplants have continued thanks to organ donors and their families and also the dedicated transplant teams in our transplanting hospitals, Beaumont, St. Vincent’s, The Mater and Temple Street.
Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to keep the reminders of their decision available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence and having the ‘digital organ donor card’ APP on their smartphone.
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or by Free texting the word DONOR to 50050.