A CORK man, who narrowly escaped death from TB resulting in a rejected kidney transplant, is fighting to make it back on the waiting list so that he can finally marry his fiancée.
Inspirational Denis O’Sullivan is urging Cork people to sign up for organ donor cards to increase the odds of life for people like himself. He is among organ transplant recipients across the country backing Organ Donor Awareness Week’s 2022- taking place until April 30.
Organised by the Irish Kidney Association in association with the HSE’s Organ Donation Transplant Ireland, this year’s campaign features photographs of people from all walks of life enjoying a collective 410 years of extra life, thanks to organ donors.
Between 550 and 600 people are currently on waiting lists for organ transplants in Ireland. Some 206 transplant operations were carried out in Ireland in 2021-16 more transplants than in 2020- These were made possible by the generosity of 65 deceased donors and 35 living kidney donors.
Denis O’Sullivan, who has two daughters Katie (9) and Emily (5) has been travelling to Kerry General Hospital three times a week for dialysis since 2017. His mother Mary Barry had previously donated her own kidney in 2010 to give him a second chance at life. However, Denis found himself in an even more devastating position after contracting TB seven years later — a condition that left him fighting for his life.
“I spent nine months in hospital,” Denis revealed.
“I was in ICU for three weeks and on a ventilator. I lost two of my big toes and part of my ring finger. I still have a limp when I walk after getting TB. At the time everyone thought I was going to die.”
The father-of-two had to make the heartbreaking decision to cease taking his anti-rejection drugs in order to treat his TB.
Several years later he remains strong and determined to try again.
A number of his family have already put themselves forward to be screened as potential donors. Following a series of tests, Denis hopes to make it onto the waiting list in the upcoming weeks. He outlined his hopes for the future.
“When something like this happens you can dig yourself into a deep dark hole or you can remember what you have to fight for,” the Kanturk man said.
“If I didn’t have my partner and kids I would definitely have died,” he said. “I’m already making plans. When I get my transplant I’d like to finally marry Liz. If I didn’t have her and the kids things would definitely be different.”
Denis had been diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 21. He spoke of how the nurses at the hospital had hugged him when he left for his transplant and cried on his return.
“I had to make a joke of it and ask 'are you crying because I’m back or because I was so sick?'” he laughed. The nurses at that hospital are the nicest and most caring people you could ever meet.
"My fiancée has been so good to me. People don’t understand just how difficult it is to live with someone who is sick. I have days where I can’t get out of bed but she has always been so kind and patient.”
The delivery driver said they seldom discuss the transplant.
“We don’t talk about it much. I don’t know how I’m going to feel normal just sitting there with a new kidney,” he said. “It’s going to be so strange being off dialysis.”
He also acknowledged his mum Mary Barry for her selflessness.
“She keeps us all going,” he said.
Denis is also close to his sister Shelly and brother Mark.
“One of the things I’m most looking forward to after my transplant is having a pint with my brother Mark. Because of my condition, I’m restricted to one litre a day. After that I can only suck on ice cubes. That’s something I’ll be really looking forward to”
Those who wish to support organ donation can do so by carrying the organ donor card, permitting for the inclusion of Code 115 on their driver’s licence, or installing the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the website https://ika.ie/get-a-donor-card/ www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or to your phone. Readers can also contact the Irish Kidney Association by phone on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.