'I was at death's door': Cork woman who received double lung transplant set for mini-marathon after remarkable recovery

'I was at death's door': Cork woman who received double lung transplant set for mini-marathon after remarkable recovery

Under starters orders are (middle) Irene McGrath with nieces Emma Daly and Sarah Sheehan, sister-in-law Deirdre Kavanagh, and sisters Gina O'Sullivan, Valerie Daly and Annamarie Kavanagh.

CORK woman Irene McGrath is taking on The Echo Women’s Mini-Marathon this weekend as she embraces a “new lease of life” following a double lung transplant.

Irene McGrath is set to take part in the event in the hopes of raising funds for the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association (ILFA) who she said gave her “the gift of life”.

Having come so far from where she was before she received the life-changing transplant last year, being able to take on the marathon means a lot to Irene.

On Sunday, she will be joined by her sisters and nieces for the big event.

While in her 30s, Irene was diagnosed with scleroderma, an auto-immune condition that affected her lungs.

“As a result, I had scarring of the lungs - fibrosis of the lungs - which meant my lungs progressively got worse to a state that I was on the waiting list for a transplant for four years,” she explained.

For two years prior to her double lung transplant, Irene was on oxygen full-time.

“In the end, I was on 30 litres of oxygen which is a ferocious amount just to be able to get in and out of the bed,” she said.

Just before her transplant last year, Irene had been in hospital for nine weeks before she received the life-changing news.

“Thanks be to God, my offer came in just in time and they did a successful double lung transplant and ever since, I’m 100% back to normal- as normal can be for anyone living through Covid.

Irene McGrath who was a lung transplant recipient last year and is fundraising for the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association.
Irene McGrath who was a lung transplant recipient last year and is fundraising for the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association.

“It’s just a new lease on life. It’s being able to do walk and jog hopefully, 6k on Sunday, but it’s something I wanted to do to prove I can do it and to give something back to ILFA.” She described the work of the Association as “pure amazing”.

“I was at death’s door, literally and they were able to operate and within six weeks, I was home to my own house recovering from a double lung transport.” 

On seven occasions, Irene travelled to Dublin with the hopes of receiving a transplant but unfortunately the donor organs were not a match.

Recalling when she finally received the news Irene said: “I just cried when they said I had a match.” 

Following the transplant, she made the effort to exercise, starting out with small walks. Now, with the mini-marathon to look forward to, she has started jogging.

“My niece lives nearby, and she has a gym at home so I would go to her house three times a week and work out in the gym. I would walk every other day and I’ve started jogging then over the last two months knowing that I was going to do the mini-marathon,” she said.

Irene McGrath who was a lung transplant recipient last year and is fundraising for the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association pictured with family who will be supporting her and taking part.
Irene McGrath who was a lung transplant recipient last year and is fundraising for the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association pictured with family who will be supporting her and taking part.

“To be honest I’m finding the jogging for 6km very hard but I’m building it up.

“I will complete it. 100% I will get over the line. At what time, I don’t know. I doubt I’ll be breaking any records.” 

After everything she has been through, Irene said she is delighted to be able to take on the challenge and to raise funds for an important cause along with awareness about lung fibrosis.

“Obviously I’m delighted with life to come from there to now oxygen, no tube, no thinking ahead if I wanted to go somewhere- just the effort it took to even get out of the house, let alone go anywhere, so it’s just amazing just to have my life back.” 

Irene expressed enormous gratitude to her donor and their family along with her “fantastic” husband, family and friends and all those who sent her cards and best wishes.

Nicola Cassidy, ILFA Director said they are “delighted” that Irene and her family have decided to take on the challenge for the charity that provides facilities and support to patients and families.

“Irene is also helping raise valuable awareness of lung fibrosis and highlighting the life-changing impact that a lung transplant can have,” she said.

“Irene is an inspiration to us all and we wish her every success and enjoyment with the mini-marathon.” 

To donate to Irene’s fundraiser, search for ‘Irene McGrath’s fundraising page’ on www.idonate.ie..

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