'If you have the opportunity to help someone have a better life, you should take it': How a sister gave her brother a kidney, and the gift of life

'If you have the opportunity to help someone have a better life, you should take it': How a sister gave her brother a kidney, and the gift of life

Denis Jackson and Margaret Ryan pictured in 2018.

A CORK woman has spoken about how she and her brother have become closer after she became a donor to save him from a life on dialysis.

Margaret Ryan’s brother, Denis Jackson, was experiencing end-stage kidney failure when she came forward.

Now, the Mitchelstown siblings are encouraging others to sign up for donor cards.

The pair say they haven’t looked back since Denis’s transplant in 2018.

“Our parents died within eight months of each other and Denis always looked after us,” Margaret said. “Anything we wanted, he would do for us, but he has always been like the ‘big daddy’.”

Margaret cast her mind back to when Denis was at the height of his illness.

Denis Jackson and Margaret Ryan pictured in 2018.
Denis Jackson and Margaret Ryan pictured in 2018.

“Denis didn’t want us to donate a kidney, because he couldn’t stand the thought of seeing any of us sick,” Margaret said. “That’s just the kind of person he is. There’s a big family.

“I was only just back from holiday when he got very sick and we thought, ‘Now’s the time to get checked out.’ It turned out I was the one who was a match.

"I knew right away I wanted to go through with it, but spoke with my family to make sure they were okay with it, too. It all worked out fine and I haven’t looked back since.”

Margaret reflected on the weeks leading up to their operations.

“I was a bit taken aback, because the date they had given us was so close,” Margaret said. “The timing wasn’t great, as my daughter was going to Africa and I didn’t want to miss her leaving. However, my husband said that if I was going to give Denis a kidney, it might as well be now. I ended up getting home before my daughter left, so I was able to say goodbye. It all happened so fast in the end.”

Margaret recalled the conversation she and Denis had before going in for surgery. “I just looked at Denis and said, ‘What’s to be will be.’

“It turned out to be the best thing I ever did. Denis was so sick that he almost ended up on dialysis. He is now healthier and fitter than me. 

"If you have the opportunity to help someone have a better life, you should take it.”

Denis said he will always be grateful to his sister for giving him a better life.

“I was over the moon in a way that words can’t describe,” Denis said of Margaret’s decision to donate.

“It was a big ask for anyone, but Margaret has always been very generous. Most of the family got tested, but it was Margaret who was the match. When she found this out, she didn’t have to think about it. She just said, ‘Let’s get this done.’ Of course, she wouldn’t have been able to go through it without her family’s blessing, so I’m extremely grateful to them, too.”

It was a nerve-racking time.

“Even before getting the transplant, I was very nervous, because I never knew if the kidney would suit,” Denis said.

 “If it wasn’t for Margaret, I’d be on dialysis. She has given me a new lease of life. I’d recommend that everyone go about getting an organ donor card now.”

He described how the experience has brought them closer than ever.

“Margaret and I have always been close, but this has brought us closer. It’s fantastic and it’s special,” Denis said.

To become an organ donor, visit ika.ie

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