WHEN Sandra Murphy, née O’Leary, passed away during Covid-19 lockdown on March 18 with organ failure, a light went out in her home and in her village of Coachford.
“Fun was her middle name,” says Sandra’s husband, Declan Murphy, who owns the local Centra store.
The couple have two sons, Eric and Mark, who are both talented sportsmen and popular members of both Aghabullogue GAA and Coachford AFC clubs.
“Mark, in 6th year, should have been doing his Leaving cert,” says Declan.
“He dodged the bullet when the exam was cancelled! Eric is in second year and he is a sports’ fanatic.”
Community spirit shone brightly in Coachford on the northside of the River Lee, when celebrating the life of the popular 51 year old mother, Sandra Murphy - the community raised just under €17,000 for the Irish Kidney Association.
As a mark of respect to the family of the late Sandra Murphy, over 90 people donned their running shoes to undertake individual runs and collectively clock up a distance of 858 kilometres. The runners included students and teachers from Coachford College who play hurling and football with Aghabullogue and some other GAA clubs as well as soccer players from Coachford AFC.
“Sandra was ill with polycystic kidney disease for four years,” says Declan.
The condition is a disorder of a cluster of cysts that develop primarily in the kidney causing the kidney to enlarge and lose function over time. Cysts can vary in size and they can grow very large.
“She learned to live with the condition she was undergoing kidney dialysis at home,” says Declan.
“Sandra underwent one operation to have one kidney removed. We were disappointed last year when the living donor kidney transplant operation at Beaumont Hospital which Sandra and one of her close friends were to undergo, was halted at the 11th hour. This was as a result of an unforeseen medical issue arising just before Sandra was being wheeled down to theatre for surgery. Following this, Sandra’s health began to worsen causing her liver function to be severely compromised,” says Declan.
A tough year ahead loomed for the family.
“From March last year to March this year, Sandra was critically ill,” says Declan. “She couldn’t drive for six months. Most of her final year leading up to her passing away in March was spent at the renal unit at Cork University Hospital.
“We are very grateful to Consultant Dr. Eva Long and her team at CUH for their professionalism and care. We would also like to thank the nursing and the medical staff at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin and the Dublin Beaumont Hospital.
In that year, when Sandra was very ill; she was only 13 days out of hospital. Those were the longest 13 days.”
Sandra made the most of her precious days.
“If she wasn’t sick; she would have been up for fun!”
But her illness knocked Sandra for six.
“The disease she had was a very rare one,” says Declan.
“It occurs in one person every four years. Sadly it turns out his way.”
Sandra lit up many lives during her life-time.
“She adored our boys,” says Declan. “They were the apple of her eye. Even when they were wrong; they were right!”
Declan and Sandra was childhood sweethearts.
“We met in Tower, Blarney, when we were just kids,” says Declan.
“Yes, we were childhood sweethearts,” says Declan.
“Sandra and I were happily married for 21 years.”
Sandra was fun-loving.
“Sandra was bubbly and bright. She was always up for fun.”
She always looked on the bright side of life.
“She had a yearning to get better, always having a good outlook and being very positive,” says Declan.
“She had great determination even when she was critically ill.”
Her light never dimmed.
“Part of Sandra’s wonderful legacy is that in celebration of her life after death, our community has raised funds which will go the Irish Kidney Association to help other kidney patients like her,” says Declan.
THE COMMUNITY RALLIED AROUND
The close-knit community of Coachford has helped the family to grieve for their loved one.
“My family takes consolation from this,” says Declan.
“I was humbled and deeply grateful to the people and the wider community for their profound expression of support to our family on Sandra’s passing. They found a wonderful way to celebrate Sandra’s life. They thought about us.”
The community kicked into gear to support the Murphy family who are a vibrant part of village life.
Peter O’Riordan, treasurer of Coachford AFC, remembers Sandra on the side-lines cheering on her boys.
“The death of Sandra had a deep impact on all the members of our club who were fortunate to have known her,” says Peter.
“She was a great supporter of the club and she was always on the side-lines cheering on her sons, Eric and Mark.
“Her passing away during lockdown prohibiting funeral gatherings presented us with a challenge as we really wanted to find a way to pay our respects to her husband, Declan, a coach and past player, and to her sons who play for the club.
“It was wonderful to be able to find a way to do this and we could never have anticipated the level of support it achieved from our club, Coachford’s village community and it’s diaspora while increasing organ awareness.”
So many people wanted to get behind the fundraising gesture to show their support to the Murphys.
“I trained the Murphy lads all the way up along,” says teacher Shane Creed.
“You know this was a great way to stop the lads from wallowing during the pandemic and to boost their mental health.
“The death of Sandra deeply touched the community and any positivity from such a sad situation can only be welcomed.”
The two running events were promoted on the Coachford College GAA and soccer club’s social media. Donations to the Coachford College event raised €1,020, while Coachford AFC’s event accumulated €15,683 through the Just Giving platform.
“We were all deeply saddened with the death of Eric and Mark’s mother, Sandra,” says Shane, who teaches Irish and History at Coachford College.
“It was a particularly challenging time for her sons and indeed all of the students during the pandemic which brought so much anxiety and uncertainty.
“The format of the fundraiser allowed us to demonstrate our sympathies to the Murphy family while observing social distancing guide-lines, doing something positive.
“By engaging in events that were both physically and mentally uplifting for all the students and teachers, we were also able, with the valued support of Aghabullogue GAA club and Coachford AFC, to honour Sandra’s memory and help raise awareness about the plight of people with organ failure while raising vital funds for the Irish Kidney Association.”
Declan knows that his fun-loving wife still shines bright even though she’s gone.
“We will rise again.”
CALLS TO CARRY A DONOR CARD
Organ Donor Cards can 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.
HOW TO SUPPORT THE IRISH KIDNEY ASSOCIATION
The public can also support the work of the IKA, you can free text Kidney to 50300 and donate €4. The public can also donate through the IKA website http//ika.ie/make-a-contribution/
The IKA Helpline is on : 076-6805278.