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Heart transplant gives mother a new life

Karen McDermott (38), a mother of two from Clonakilty, received a new heart in August 2012. This week is organ donation week.

Karen McDermott, a mother of two from Clonakilty, who received a life saving heart transplant in August 2012 with her two children Nicola and Shane looking at the Donor Ecard Phone App.
Karen McDermott, a mother of two from Clonakilty, who received a life saving heart transplant in August 2012 with her two children Nicola and Shane looking at the Donor Ecard Phone App.
Image: John Allen

THIS IS ORGAN donation week, and Mark Murphy, CEO of the Irish Kidney Association, told TheJournal.ie that they are happy with how the week is progressing.

The aim of the week is to raise awareness of the need for organ donors in Ireland, and to reverse the drop in donations in recent years.  The Irish Kidney Association is also hoping to raise much-needed funds with their ‘forget me not flower’ emblems.

Murphy said that a lot of people will use this weekend as the main focus for donating money to the cause, and that so far they are very pleased with the public’s reaction, and they hope the response from the public hope will be good over the next few days.

Heart transplant

One person whose life was completely changed due to organ donation is Karen McDermott (38), a mother of two from Clonakilty. She received a heart transplant in August 2012.

Describing her transplant experience, McDermott said:

My heart was barely pumping blood before the transplant operation, I had no energy and was a wheelchair user. Now I am almost fully recovered and am enjoying every minute of my new life.

On Easter Monday, she took part in the Clonakilty Road Run for COPE, and said that “every step I took brought a big bright smile to my face”.

My transplant has made it possible for me to enjoy doing the most simple things in life that most people take for granted like taking a shower on my own, climbing the stairs and spending time with my children. I will never be able to thank my donor enough for giving me a second chance at life and to be able to watch my children grow up. My donor will always be in my thoughts.

McDermott, who has two children, Shane (14) and Nicola (10), had always been an active person who enjoyed playing badminton and worked in credit control in her local credit union.

Without any previous indications of an underlying defective heart condition, she started to become very ill in January 2012.  She was hospitalised in Cork University Hospital for seven weeks – what was initially thought to be reflux was diagnosed as a combination of Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Mitral Valve Disease.

Her care was then passed on to the Mater Hospital in Dublin, and as her heart was only working at 17 per cent capacity, she was put on the heart transplant waiting list in June 2012.

She got called for a transplant on 13 August 2012 but unfortunately the transplant did not go ahead as the donor heart was not suitable. Thankfully, she was called again for her life saving transplant in late August 2012.

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which runs until 6 April, is organised by the Irish Kidney Association and supported by the Irish Donor Network.

There are currently over 600 people in Ireland waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Last year saw 78 deceased organ donors in Ireland, down from the record set the previous year at 93, but only two donors off the 5-year average of 80 per year.

Ógra Fianna Fáil published its policy on organ donation this week. Its proposals include the establishment of a national organ donor registry and increased education on organ donation in schools.

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association LoCall 1890 543639 or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050.  It is now possible to store an organ donor card, the ‘ecard’ on Smart mobile phones. Simply search for ‘Donor ECard’ at the IPhone Store or Android Market Place.

Read: Organ Donor Awareness Week hopes to reverse drop in donations>

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