Bantry sisters share the joy of exchanging ‘greatest ever gift’

April 26th, 2022 10:10 PM

By Brian Moore

Karen O’Sullivan received a kidney from her sister Sandra in 2018: ‘I will be grateful to Sandra for the rest of my life.’ (Photo: Karlis Dzjamko)

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‘THIS is the greatest gift anyone could give or receive.’

These are the words you will hear repeated again and again from people who have been lucky enough to receive the life-changing gift of an organ transplant.

For many in West Cork, this year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week will see them remembering, once more, loved ones who sadly passed away but who have left behind the gift of life for many more.

There will be transplant recipients who will be celebrating and remembering their donors who have provided them with a life and a future they never thought possible.

And there will be family members, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who will see their loved ones thrive because they provided them with better, healthier lives.

One such grateful Bantry woman is Karen O’Sullivan who received a kidney from her sister, Sandra, in 2018.

‘I will be grateful to Sandra for the rest of my life,’ Karen told The Southern Star.

‘This has not only changed my life completely, but has given me a future that I thought was going to be very difficult, not only for me but for my family as well.’

Karen and Sandra underwent the transplant procedure at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, following ten years of various types of dialysis treatment, which she underwent at CUH and at home, and breast cancer treatment.

Karen went to work in the Westlodge Hotel in Bantry when she was just 16. It was while she was working as a lifeguard there that she met her future husband John O’Sullivan, and they got married in 1991.

‘I suffered blood pressure and thyroid problems since my teens but it wasn’t until after I got married and had a biopsy that I found out that my kidneys were very small and hadn’t developed to full size,’ Karen said.

When the time came for Karen to undergo the transplant, many other members of her family wanted to donate a kidney if they could.

‘Sandra was a 99% kidney match for me,’ Karen said.

‘And I am immensely grateful to her for her gift to me.’

This year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign is built around the theme ‘Share your Wishes’ about organ donation. The key message is that members of the public can play their part in supporting organ donation for transplantation by ensuring that their families know their wishes.

‘It is vital that you have the conversation with your loved ones so that you know what they want if the worst should happen,’ Karen said.

Sharing your wishes when you are in good health makes it a less stressful decision for your family in the event of them being approached about you being a potential organ donor.

‘The number of lives that can be saved from just one person donating their organs is incredible and I would urge everyone to ensure that they have the conversation and carry an organ donor card,’ Karen said.

Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to keep the reminders of their decision available.

They can carry the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence, or they can also install the digital organ donor card app on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the website or to your phone, from the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306.

They can also Freetext the word DONOR to 5005.

• Organ Donor Awareness Week runs from April 23rd to April 30th.

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