Alison McCarthy-Fogarty from Tipperary Town who is on the organ donor waiting list and her husband Stevie
A Tipperary Town woman waiting for her second kidney transplant has appealed to the public to help transform the lives of people like her by signing up to carry organ donor cards.
Alison McCarthy-Fogarty from Fr Matthew Street in Tipperary Town, who has lived for nearly a decade on dialysis since the failure of her first kidney transplant in 2014, has issued the public appeal during Organ Donor Awareness Week, which ends on Saturday.
The former pharmacy technician is back on the organ transplant waiting list about eight months following a long road to recovery after her first kidney transplant and after overcoming serious illness in 2019.
Alison, who is aged 44, says the opportunity to get this life changing and saving operation again would mean everything to her.
“It would mean absolutely everything. It would change your life.
“You would be able to work again, travel again and even go out for a meal. There are so many different things you could do. You would have a life, not being stuck at home. I have to go on dialysis at 10pm every night for 10 hours regardless,” she says.
Her condition means she constantly feels tired but she finds sticking to the strict renal diet the biggest challenge in her daily life. “You have to watch everything you eat. You can’t have anything with salt,” she points out.
She urged people to consider carrying organ donor cards and let their family know their wishes in relation to organ donation. The more people willing to donate their organs, means the more people like her will have an opportunity to live a full life.
Alison suffers from a rare renal disease called Bartter syndrome, which results in low salt and potassium levels in the body. She was diagnosed around the age of 8 or 9 and during her childhood spent periods in and out of hospital including three months at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. However, she was able to live a normal life until 2014 when she became sick and the deterioration of her kidneys due to the syndrome meant she had to start undergoing dialysis, initally receiving haemodialysis at a hospital. She had to give up her job due to her health problems.
She was two weeks away from starting home dialysis in October 2014 when she got the call up for a transplant of a kidney from a deceased donor. She underwent the transplant at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin but shortly after returning home, she became very ill. When re-admitted to Beaumont, the doctors discovered a clot in the artery to the transplanted kidney and decided the organ had to be removed.
The removal of the kidney avoided a build-up of antibodies that would complicate Alison’s prospects of finding a suitable donor kidney in the future. Alison found the failure of the transplant very difficult to come to terms with.
“I can’t explain how devastating it was. It was a part of me that was lost. I was also devastated for the family of the person who donated the kidney. It took me a long time to get my head around it,” she recalls.
Alison has been receiving daily home dialysis ever since. Due to her condition, she is immuno-suppressed, which means she is more prone to becoming ill. In 2019, she got very sick with pneumonia and suffered a collapsed lung and temporarily lost mobility on the left side of her body.
She spent 12 weeks in hospital and the road back to recovery was slow. Following her discharge from hospital, she spent about six weeks staying with her parents while her husband Stevie gave up his job as a baker to care for her. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and Alison had to go into isolation to avoid contracting the virus.
She said the pandemic was a very difficult time for all her family, not just herself. She became a recluse who could only meet with family members at a distance chatting to them as they stood outside the window or front door. Stevie, meanwhile, changed career. He qualified as a healthcare assistant and has now been working in this role for over a year and loves it.
With the pandemic now waning, Alison is looking forward to the future.
“It’s been a difficult few years but I have managed to turn it around to make myself well enough to go back on the organ donor list. I am back on it about six to eight months.”
She says she couldn’t have got through the past eight years without the huge support of her husband and wider family. “I have a great family and wonderful husband helping me every day. You get by once you have that support behind you.”
Alison regards the prospect of a second kidney transplant as a beacon of hope for a return to a normal life. “It’s exciting for sure. You are getting the gift of life. That is what you are receiving at the end of the day. It is the future.”
How to show organ donation wish
Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to carry the organ donor cards, permit Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or have the Digital Organ Donor Card App on their phone.
Organ donor cards can be requested through the Irish Kidney Association website: www.ika.ie.
Alternatively phone the IKA at 01 6205306 or free text the word DONOR to 50050
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