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Laois woman tells herself and her husbands living donor organ transplant story

Susan & Mark Gilnagh from Ballybrittas hope their story will lead to others becoming organ donors

organ transplant

Susan and Mark Gilnagh from Ballybrittas

Susan and Mark Gilnagh from Ballybrittas in Co Laois underwent a living donor kidney transplant in 2017 but not before the transplant operations were delayed for a year after Susan became very ill. Fortunately she is now happily transplanted thanks to her donor husband Mark. She has written an account of their transplant story to highlight Organ Donor Awareness Week 2018 (March 31 - April 7)

This time last year I told my story for organ donor week.

I have polycystic kidney disease and was put on CAPD Dialysis at home soon after my daughter was born in 2002.  I was lucky enough to get the phone call for a kidney transplant in December of 2005.

Unfortunately, in 2014 the kidney failed and I was put back on CAPD Dialysis at home. This lasted for about a year and in 2015 I was transferred over Haemodialysis as the CAPD at home was not working.

This involved going to Tallaght Renal unit four times a week for three 1/2 hour sessions that left me with very low blood Pressure and every week.  

My diet was restricted and my fluid intake was a litre and a half per day. This was a very hard time for me as dialysis interfered with Christmas celebrations as I had to go for dialysis on Christmas Day Bank holidays and this interrupted time with family and precious time with family.  

Mark my husband decided to apply for the tests to see if he was a match for me. He spent a day in Beaumont getting all the relevant tests carried out. We got the news he was a match an appointment was organised in November 2016 we were given a date and we went home preparing kids and organising people to help out.  

The next day the bad news came in I had a bad blood infection (Septicaemia) and the transplant could not go ahead as planned. We were to have four other disappointing appointments like this. Until finally the date was set Monday the 27th June 2017.  We were told to arrive on Sunday and my brother-in-law James brought us to the hospital.

On Monday morning at 8am mark was brought down to Theatre and I stood in the corridor watching him being wheeled down and a tear rolling down my face as true Mark style cool and calm he raised his arm in the air and said nothing. I wondered back to my room lonely and worried and sad and excited.  

A nurse came in and I was rushed off to the renal department for a session of dialysis, so no more time for worrying or thinking.

At 11am I was prepared for theatre and taken down, that is all I remember only to be woken up in intensive care “just a precaution the nurse said your blood pressure fell in surgery so we want to keep an eye on you”.

“How is Mark I immediately asked?”

She handed me a phone and I spoke to him he sounded in a lot of pain of course he was he was not using the Morphine correctly so I handed the phone to the nurse and she explained how it was to be used He wouldn’t listen to the wife.


Tuesday afternoon I managed to get to see him a nurse wheeled me down to Mark’s room.  It was so strange I had gone into Theatre so sick and weak and had come out full of colour and energy and Mark who had gone down to theatre so well was lying in the bed weak, pale and extremely sore with a number of wounds.

Mark was released home after seven days with painkillers and antibiotics and I was left for another week I really missed him but we would speak every day.  I finally got home the kidney was working well and all the doctors were pleased with my progress.

At present, I am at home looking for a job with no success as I have been out of work for so long.  Do you tell a prospective employer you have kidney disease because remember as I keep being reminded a kidney transplant is not a cure it is a treatment all be it a very good one.  

The changes a donor makes to not just the recipient but the whole family it means I can participate in family life more I can go places without thinking about diet or fluid intake or having to stop through lack of energy.  I can go away for weekends and not worry about having to change my Dialysis times.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the nurses and doctors who helped me through very bad cramps in my legs. A drop in my blood pressure which made me feel sick and advice on diet and fluid intake.

I especially want to thank the taxi drivers that got me to my dialysis appointments on time every week and the chats and laughs we had in the car travelling to Tallaght from Laois were great and I still miss them.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have some questions for the people who are reading my story.

Do you carry a Donor Card?

Do you talk to your next of kin in regards to your wishes when you die?

Do you know what a special gift you are carrying around with you in your wallet in the form of that card?

May I speak for all organ recipients when I say thank you for carrying or even thinking of carrying an organ donor card you are changing people’s lives in a very special and huge way.  

I know because my mother was an organ recipient and my aunt was a kidney patient on haemodialysis.

I hope the message has been received loud and clear carry a donor card speak to your family and next of kin.

Remember you are helping a number of people families and patients so if you pass a bucket collecting for donor awareness week try and stick a few cents in and know it means a lot to many people.

You are making lives better and putting that all important smile on people’s faces and doing a good thing for a lot of people.  

We all like doing that.

So have a very Happy Easter and enjoy the rest of the year be healthy and I hope to speak to you next year.

Mountrath native and RTE broadcaster Claire Byrne launch of 2018 Organ Donor Awareness Week with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, on Tuesday 27th March.

Free information fact files, which accompany organ donor cards, are obtainable from the Irish Kidney Association and are available nationwide from pharmacies, GP surgeries and Citizen Information Offices.

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association tel 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.

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