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The Women's Mini Marathon is set to take place on 29 September.
Donor Card

'I'm doing this in honour of my donor': Woman who received life-saving kidney transplant taking on 5k race

Emma O’Sullivan has gone through two organ transplants due to an illness she has experienced since birth.

A WOMAN WHO was given another chance at life thanks to a kidney donation 20 years ago is set to take on her third Women’s Mini Marathon in her donor’s memory. 

Emma O’Sullivan, who is originally from Kilkenny but lives in Dublin, faced a battle since birth after she was born with a reflux that damaged her kidneys. 

She subsequently needed three operations within the first five years of her life, and required continuous medical treatment to live as normal a life as possible as a child.

“I’ve been sick since birth, I had my first operation at one, and I was waiting for a donor after that. I was on medication so I didn’t have to go on dialysis, which you usually need to keep you alive,” she said. 

When, at nine years old, her family got the call to say a donor match was found, she thought that would be the end of the troubles.

“I was lucky because I had plain sailing for 11 years after we got a kidney donor. There was a few ups and downs afterwards with different infections but that was it really.”

Emma Emma O'Sullivan said having a donor card could save someone's life.

Eleven years later, at 21 years old, the donor kidney failed and she was back to square one, with a strict diet and nine hours of treatment every week.

Dialysis treatment cleaned her blood and carried out the functions that would otherwise be carried out by her kidneys until a new donor could be found.

“I was around 21 when I lost it. I just felt sick and I went to the hospital – I had to have regular check ups every two months anyway – but I went in, they took bloods and said the kidney is gone.”

“I went to hospital three days a week for three hours after that. That required two needles taking blood and fluid out, then cleaning it and putting it back in. 

“Because I had no kidneys, I was on a restricted diet, with one litre of fluid a day and recording everything down to the juice of an apple. 

“I was 18 months on dialysis before Beaumont rang to say that a kidney had come in. They did some tests and thankfully we were a match.” 

In Ireland recipients aren’t told the circumstances in which the organs are obtained, with Emma only being told that it was a man’s kidney. 

Within 24 hours of the call, she was in for surgery and the transplant operation was a success. 

Now twenty years on she is taking part in the 5km Cook Medical Women’s Mini Marathon in Limerick in honour of the transplant donors that have given her, and others, another chance of a healthy life. 

“I am doing this in honour of my donor and their family because I think anyone who gets out there and shows the donor’s families that it’s not going to waste, that you’re being healthy, and that it is a second or third chance, is a good thing. 

“We don’t know the donor families but every year in October we have a mass and we send the family a letter through donor coordinators.

“I’ve done this marathon for three years, I go to the gym two or three times a week after work and I recently joined a football team.

“Even those on dialysis can actually be active, obviously you mightn’t be as active because you can be a bit tired getting treatment but you can still do it.” 

The 41-year-old has also been involved in the European and World Transplant Games and when asked about her experience, she encourages everyone to carry a donor card with them at all times.

“Sometimes I wear a t-shirt about organ donation and I explain to people what it means. Sometimes they don’t know what to say and just look at me, but others will have a chat about it. 

“I even have a donor card. And when I meet people, I ask them to carry one. If you died your loved ones wouldn’t be thinking about that, so I tell people to have the conversation now.”

The annual Cook Medical Women’s Mini Marathon in Limerick marks its 21st year this year and will go off on Sunday 29 September, with 3,000 women are set to take part. 

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