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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018
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"Your organs are no use to anyone in the ground" - a donor's kindness has given this girl her life back

Laura Dolan had been suffering from a series of liver ailments for six years prior to her transplant in September 2015.

Laura Dolan 2 Laura Dolan

TODAY SEES THE start of Organ Donor Awareness Week.

The week is a huge deal for the likes of the Irish Kidney Association, for whom 74% of donations are generated from the public.

266 organ transplants took place in Ireland last year, fully 22 more than in 2014. 81 deceased donors and their families contributed to those life-saving exercises.

One of those to benefit from the generosity of those who died was 21-year-old Laura Dolan.

Laura had been on a liver transplant waiting list for 10 months before her life-changing surgery at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin in September 2015.

Freedom

Speaking to TheJournal.ie from Lanzarote, her first holiday in two years, Laura talks of the rejuvenation her life has seen since her operation.

“I’ve just got so much freedom to just do stuff, I can leave Dublin now, I couldn’t do so before because I always had to be available on the off chance the call came through,” she says.

The call she’s talking about is of course that which would tell her that an appropriate organ had become available. It’s a grim fact of life that that call would coincide with the death of another.

Laura had been on the transplant waiting list for ten months since November 2014. That may seem like a short time to the uninitiated. For her it was anything but.

Laura Dolan 3

“It certainly didn’t seem like a short time,” she says. “It felt like forever. You can be on the list for a week or you can be on it for two years, it all depends.”

Glenageary-native Laura was diagnosed with auto-immune hepatitis when she was 15. From that moment on she knew a transplant was likely. Not long after she was additionally diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a progressive liver disease.

“It just meant I was sick all the time, I never had any energy,” she says.

I’m studying child-care in college and I’d be doing a bit of work in a school when college was done, and I was just exhausted, worn out.
Now I come home and I still have energy. The difference is unreal.

Family

Laura was hospitalised four times last summer. As she says, her immune system “was so low”. No more though. She’s incredibly grateful for the chance she’s been given. As far as she knows her donor was a girl of about the same age as herself. Such details have to be kept secret though, for obvious reasons.

“I’m allowed to write to their family. I haven’t done so yet though. I want to spend a little time living this way so I can truly appreciate what has been done for me before I get in touch,” she says.

For the moment, she has to take anti-rejection drugs daily in order to ensure that the transplant takes. But all signs are that the surgery was a resounding success.

With luck, I’ll be able to live like this now for the rest of my life. I’m lucky, my family have been so supportive, and I have a great group of girlfriends who have always been there for me.

To this writer, the world of organ-donation is a mystery. Understandably, Laura speaks enthusiastically on the gift that ordinary people can give to each other. She understands that people can be squeamish (“people are wary of being cremated, what comes after death is a sensitive subject for them”), but she looks at in a logical manner.

“Your organs are no use to anyone in the ground,” she says. “Why not save a life?”

If you knew you were able to save a minimum of one life, and really you can save four, that would be something amazing for you to do.
It’s important at least, that whether you carry a card or not, that your family know what your wishes are.

Organ donation has given Laura her life back. There can be no greater recommendation than that.

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