On Easter Saturday 2009, parents John and Orla Smith from Blackrock, Cork, had their lives turned upside down when their 11-month-old daughter fell seriously ill.
The tot was left fighting for her life after being struck down by a near-fatal virus that attacked her heart.
Six weeks later she received a heart transplant in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, England. The lifesaving transplant operation took 10 and a half hours.
John and Orla want to spread the message about the wonderful legacy of organ donation during Organ Donor Awareness week, which starts today.
“Organ donation is a wonderful gift that touches so many lives. Keela is too beautiful for words,” said Orla.
Keela, who will celebrate her fifth birthday next month, leads a normal life and has started pre-school.
“She is an active feisty, four-year-old girl who is looking forward to opening her Easter eggs with their six-year-old loving brother, Oisin,” said Orla.
Keela was perfectly healthy, just like her brother, when she was born — and her parents were overjoyed.
“Like most families, we were just getting on with life and never contemplated that organ failure would visit our door,” said Orla.
“We will be forever grateful to the family who, in their darkest hour of losing their child, made the selfless decision to donate so that Keela and other children’s lives could be saved. Our thoughts and prayers are always with Keela’s donor as well as all those families with children with organ failure.”
Because Keela continues to take anti-rejection drugs for her heart transplant, her parents have to be especially protective of her because she is vulnerable to colds and infections.
Orla said she wanted to thank the staff at the Freeman Hospital; Cork University Hospital; and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, for looking after Keela.
She said family and friends also continued to provide them with tremendous support.
Organ Donor Awareness Week continues until next Sunday.
The annual organ donor awareness campaign is organised by the Irish Kidney Association and supported by the Irish Donor Network.
Almost 3,000 people in Ireland are enjoying extended life away from hospital as a result of receiving transplants.