Live organ doners give hope to patients awaiting transplant surgery

Letterkenny woman Hillary Russell had only days to live when she received her liver transplant in 2009.

Letterkenny woman Hillary Russell had only days to live when she received her liver transplant in 2009.

Two years later she has returned to education and is enjoying life to the full.

“It is great to get up in the morning without aches and pains,” she says.

The grandmother of ten is calling on everyone who can to carry donor cards ahead of Organ Donor Awareness Week.

Hillary underwent the operation after experiencing years of bad health. She had been waiting a year for a suitable donor when she got the good news that her operation could go ahead. “To hear it was finally happening was just brilliant,” she said. Before she received her new kidney her doctors told her she had just days to live. “Another week and I would have been well under the ground.”

Hillary had begun to give up hope that she would receive her life-saving transplant but it was the love of her grandchildren that kept her going. “I was beginning to give up at the time but when I saw them and when they hugged me I knew I had to live for them.”

She says her message now to everyone who can is to carry a donor card. “I would ask people to carry a donor card in any way they can. It is something that I would never have thought of it before but it is one of those things that you don’t think about until you need it.”

Nicholas Crossan (29) from Ramelton says he had no hesitation in stepping forward to help his younger brother John when it became clear that he needed a liver transplant. John (26) had been ill since he was 13-years-old when he was diagnosed with a medical condition that could lead to liver failure. By the time he was 23 he was receiving dialysis three times a week.

Nicholas says he knew nothing about what was involved in becoming a live donor. “We as a family sat down to talk about it as we had to do something. When I heard he was first ill I said ‘I would love to do something,’ but we knew nothing about transplants at all. We decided we should all be tested. Me and my mother were suitable donors and my mother wanted to do it but I would not let her. It did not cost me a thought . I knew I had to do it. The young fella was in trouble and needed help and I was delighted to be able to help.”

After months of rigorous testing for the procedure was given the all clear and the transplant went ahead in July last year. “John now is just a completely different person,” Nicholas said. “The colour has come back to his face, he has put on weight and is healthier. He is healthier than me.”

With key-hole surgery Nicholas says the procedure is much easier than it used to be. “It is the best thing that anyone can do. It is so simple now that you wouldn’t even know you have been touched. I would really, really recommend people to consider being a live donor because there are more than 1,700 people on dialysis.

During Organ Donor Awareness Week Irish Kidney Association volunteer collectors will be distributing organ donor cards and selling Forget-me-not flower emblems (the symbol of transplantation) in towns and villages throughout Donegal including Dunnes Stores, Letterkenny on Saturday 31st March; and Tesco and ALDI stores on Good Friday 6th April. Anyone wishing to assist by volunteering to distribute donor cards or sell flowers can phone Siobhan Bates, Chairperson, Donegal Branch of the Irish Kidney Association mob 086 239 0275 and Tel. (074) 912 2271