A CORK woman has paid tribute to her brother after he risked his own life in a selfless act of brotherly love.
Deirdre Cole will be spending Christmas recovering at her home in Bishopstown following a kidney transplant at Beaumont Hospital. Her donor, who just so happens to be her brother, is also recuperating after an emotional and exhausting couple of months.
David Cole who is vice-principal at Cork Educate Together secondary school, kept his intention to donate a surprise until it emerged he was a suitable match.
“This is one of the two best Christmas presents I’ve ever received,” Deirdre said.
“The other gift was my now seven-year-old Andy who was born on Christmas Eve.”
Deirdre recalled how her journey began more than five years ago.
“I was trying for a second baby at the time. However, when my kidney function dropped considerably, I was told I wouldn’t be able to have anymore children. I would also need a transplant. That was when I decided to move back home. It was good to be near family and the house is just across from Cork University Hospital.”
David stepped in to help his sister just before she was about to commence dialysis.
“Before my transplant, I wasn’t living, only surviving. I stopped going out for fear I would get sick. My child still needed looking after so I needed to get the most out of my kidney. I didn’t think that anyone in my family was a match.
“Most of my family members were either the wrong blood type or had been ruled out due to illness. I was planning to do a paired match scheme in Coventry. My son Andy and I were in a field playing fetch with the dog when David called me. I felt this outpouring of emotion and immense gratitude. I was trying my best to act as natural as possible to avoid Andy noticing anything.”
She later explained the situation to her son.
“I had to eventually tell him, as there was a possibility I might disappear one night. He told his teachers that ‘mummy was going to be away for a few weeks to get a new kidney’. We knew he had a good understanding of the whole thing. David and I felt it was important for him to know and be a part of this.
“Knowing that David was going into this healthy was the hardest part for me. There were lots of tears in the hospital.”
She recalled waking up after the operation.
“David walked across the hall to see me, against his partner’s wishes.
“I think his initial thoughts were ‘I’ve given my sister a part of me, please let her be okay.’ On our third day post-op, we had such a bad fit of the giggles, we both had to call nurses to get tablets for the pain. It was partly down to the relief of having everything over with and being able to sit down together and talk to each other.”
The pair inspire each other every day.
“Growing up, we had a typical brother-sister relationship. I was the middle one, always looking for the attention and he was the one who got it,” she joked.
“We’re trying to see now who can take the most steps after the operation so we’re as competitive as we’ve always been. Yesterday he walked 1.6 kilometres while I only walked around the block.”
Deirdre is looking forward to a bright future with her partner and son.
“I’ve told him that soon I’ll be a turbo-boosted mum and we will be able to do all the things we couldn’t do before now.”
One of the most emotional moments for the siblings was reading a poem written by Andy about the experience. The piece centred around how an ordinary man became extraordinary by donating a kidney to his sister.
Both siblings will be concentrating on their recovery this Christmas.
“This Christmas we will be battening down the hatches as we’re still both only recovering. However, it’s the Christmases to come that I’m really looking forward to. David has gifted me a future — something I wasn’t sure I’d ever have.”
Deirdre admits she has difficulty finding the words to thank her brother.
“I’ve written a note to my brother but it’s hard to find words that come close to just how grateful I really am. Before, this experience I probably took family for granted. Now, I realise its true importance.”
She urged those without donor cards to consider donating.
“You can’t take your organs with you. When the time comes, they are no good to you anymore. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a family member who’s a match. This could mean the difference between life and death for someone.”
Deirdre extended her gratitude to those who supported them.
“We’d like to thank Educate Together, David’s wife Aran and the school where she works, St Angela’s, my partner Brian and his workplace the Port of Cork. I also received great support from my own employers Fáilte Ireland.”