An East Cork College Student who received a second chance at life, is urging people to become an organ donor. Edel Cashman from Carrigtwohill suffered liver failure for 3 years, before her life was saved by an anonymous donor in 2018.
The 21 year old Agricultural Science student was just 9 years of age when she was
diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis, a disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the liver, causing it to become inflamed. The condition impairs the liver’s ability to filter toxins, leading to cirrhosis or scarring and eventually liver failure. “Growing up with a long-term illness was tough. I was very aware of the fact that I was different - that I was sick. There were very few times when I would truly forget that I had this disease. It was always in the back of my mind. Once they found the right dose of medication for me, I was stable, and I looked normal” said the Carrigtwohill woman. Sleepless nights, night sweats, insatiable appetite and a bloated face and belly were all side effects of the Steroids used to control Edel’s condition, prior to getting her new liver. In 2016, when Edel’s condition got progressively worse, doctors discovered that she also had Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare, chronic and potentially serious bile duct disease. Her bile ducts, carrying bile from the liver to her intestine, were progressively narrowing and the only cure for the condition was a liver transplant.
Just five months ago the Carrigtwohill native underwent a liver transplant in St Vincent’s Hospital, “there was a lot of pain, discomfort and a rollercoaster of emotions but once I got home, I recovered so quickly. “The difference in my life now compared to before the transplant is phenomenal! I still haven’t gotten used to it – and I hope I never will because I take nothing for granted now. The ability to hop out of bed with no pain, to put on my own socks, to shower myself, to work out in the gym, to lift buckets of milk across the farm to feed calves, to hoover the house even – and I never thought I’d be thankful to do that” said Edel.
Now she’s urging others to donate organs in the event of their death. Donor Awareness Week runs from this Saturday, 30 March through to the 6 April. The aim of the week is to encourage individuals to talk with their families about their desire to become an organ donor. An organ donation opt out system is due to be put in place by the end of the year and, by introducing the legislation, Ireland will be aligning itself with other European countries.
Edel says that despite some countries having the opt-out law, medical practitioners will always favour the wishes of the next of kin. She says what is much more important is making people aware that they should carry a donor card or have code 115 entered on their driver’s licence, and by having the digital donor card app on your Smart phone.
In 2018, 274 people were given the gift of life in Ireland with almost 600 patients awaiting organ transplantation. Last year, 81 deceased donors led to 56 liver transplants and 5 pancreas being carried out at St. Vincent’s University Hospital. The Mater Hospital carried out 18 heart transplants as well as 28 lung transplants. A total of 167 kidney transplants were carried out at Beaumont Hospital including 40 living donor kidney transplants.
Thanks to the gift of organ donation almost 4,000 transplanted people in Ireland are enjoying extended life.
Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.