Cork student urges families to have organ donor conversation after getting 'a new life'

Edel Cashman received a liver transplant five months ago and the difference it has made to her life is phenomenal.

“It is amazing. I have so much energy and the days are much longer for me because I don't have to nap in the middle of them any more,” said Edel.

The 21-year-old agricultural science student from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis when she was nine years old.

“I feel like a new person. I have been given a new life,” she said.

Edel was one of a number of people at the launch in Dublin of Organ Donor Awareness Week to benefit from the selfless generosity of families of deceased donors.

Edel said she can now make plans without wondering whether or not she was going to be sick.

It is such a huge open world for me now whereas before I could barely look ahead of the next day

Edel will return to University College Dublin in September to complete the final two years of a four-year course.

“I get up at 7.30am every morning and work down on the family farm and I keep going until ten at night, no problem.”

Edel said she would never be able to thank her donor and her family enough.

“I often think of her family and what they are going through and hope that they get some comfort that I am out there somewhere being able to live a full life.”

Mick O'Shea, a consultant engineer and fitness enthusiast from Mallow, Co Cork, underwent a heart transplant in August 2017 when he was 38 years old.

“I was fit and healthy and I just crashed. It was a viral infection of the heart – myocarditis,” said Mick, who attended the event with his wife, Jennifer and mother, Nora.

“I was bed-ridden for three months. I was basically a body because my heart was functioning at just 10% of what it should have been.”

Mick qualified as a personal trainer two weeks ago and is heading to the World Transplant Games in Newcastle, England, in August.

Organ donation has given me another life. I would not be here only for my donor family. I do not know who they are but I have written to them to thank them and let them know how I am getting on and what I have achieved

Grainne Wyse and her brother, Conor, from Lanesborough, Co Longford, know that five people benefited from organs donated by their brother, Ruairi, 37, who died in 2015 after suffering a brain aneurysm.

One donor included a lady who had received five false calls for a heart transplant before receiving Ruairi's donor heart.

“It brings something positive out of the sadness of losing Ruairi,” said Grainne.

“It was a difficult decision but we were very clear on Ruairi's wishes that he would have wanted to donate his organs. It is a really worthwhile decision to make as a family,” said Conor.

At the campaign's launch in the Mansion House, the chief executive of the Irish Kidney Association, Mark Murphy, said it was time that Ireland followed Britain and started accepting offers from altruistic living donors to strangers.

He said about six people had gone to Northern Ireland over the last three years to donate a kidney to the system there.

He did not believe it was necessary to wait for legislation to be passed by the Oireachtas because there was already a strict system for living donations.

"People are losing out getting transplants. It is a waste of their time," he said.

The Department of Health said the General Scheme of a Human Tissue Bill would include provisions for altruistic donation and that the planned legislation would be submitted to Government shortly.

Organ Donor Awareness Week is organised by the Irish Kidney Association and supported by the Organ Donation Transplant Ireland.

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