“Saying thank-you is very important,” says Sally Nagle, 29, who has two brothers and three sisters.
Sally, from Montenotte, was given the chance to live a full, happy and active life because of a life-changing gift of an organ donation — not once, but twice.
“I’ve had an underlying condition since birth,” says Sally.
“The condition, idiopathic multicentric ostolysis, is so rare, I am the only case known in Ireland or in the UK. It’s the break- down of the brine in hands and feet, and hard tissue forms instead of bone.
How did the condition impact Sally’s life?
“I couldn’t walk very far, I’d get tired, and I had difficulty opening jars for instance. In later life, in my teens, there was a possibility I’d suffer kidney failure.”
Sally was in third year at school when she had to go on dialysis treatment for two years.
“I didn’t like the idea of that,” says Sally.
“In third year and fourth year at school there were a lot of trips planned. I didn’t want to miss out.”
Two years after commencing dialysis, Sally underwent her first kidney transplant.
“You are on tenter-hooks waiting for the phone to ring,” says Sally.
That vital call changes the lives of people every year. In 2019 there were 153 kidney transplants carried out in Ireland.
“Getting that call is life-changing,” says Sally.
“You never know when it will come. You keep your phone on constantly and you will it to ring with news of a prospective donor.”
Life for Sally back then was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Her future relied on someone somewhere to restore her life to a semblance of normality.
Was her teenage social life non-existent?
“I did go out and see my pals,” says Sally.
“But I couldn’t do things like other teenagers, like go on sleepovers to my friend’s houses.”
Did she get fed-up while her life was on hold?
“I’d be generally an optimistic person,” says Sally. “But I’m only human and I’d have my bad days. As time went on, I used to think, I’m ready for a transplant now.”
Sally, being a member of the Baha’i religious community, had faith and she had hope.
Finally the call came. Sally was elated.
“It was such a nice surprise.”
Time was of the essence.
“We rushed up to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin,” says Sally.
Everything went well with the kidney transplant. She got a reprieve for 11 years.
“My life changed drastically for the better after my kidney transplant,” says Sally.
“From having low energy, I had loads of energy. The strict dietary and fluid restrictions were gone. The dialysis was gone.”
Sally enjoyed a new-found freedom.
“I didn’t have to think about what I had to do every day all the time. Now I had choice,” says Sally.
“I could engage with life like I never could before.”
Sally broke free of the restraints that ill-health had caused her.
“I was able to go on holidays!”
She was also able to indulge herself in her passion.
“I did the 12 week Ballymaloe cookery course. I loved it! Cooking is a life-skill that is really useful.”
She found a niche for herself.
“I love the whole industry and I enjoyed selling my home-made soups and other products at the country market. I found my niche.”
She explored other opportunities.
“I went back to college. When I was working in event management I was very interested in social media and marketing. For a time, I enjoyed minding young children.”
Enjoying a new lease of life and embracing life, Sally kept the prospective life-span of her new kidney at the back of her mind.
“We are informed that the kidney is possibly not a ‘forever’ kidney,” say Sally. “You can expect 20 or 30 years for it to function normally.”
Sally did all the right things to promote the longevity of her donated kidney gifted to her from a deceased donor.
“You take the tablets and you look after yourself.”
Sally was devastated when she suffered kidney failure again.
“There weren’t any real symptoms,” says Sally. “I felt a bit unwell.”
She felt she couldn’t face the prospect of undergoing dialysis treatment again and the anguish of waiting for another suitable match for another kidney transplant.
“I waited as long as possible,” say Sally.
“I was slow to go back on dialysis treatment. This time round I was older so I decided to get haemodialysis treatment three days a week for three hours a week in CUH. Also I associated being at home with enjoyment. The medical team at CUH were amazing.”
The treatment took its toll on Sally’s system.
“I couldn’t plan anything else on those days,” says Sally.
“I was very tired. If I’d planned to do things, I had to plan days in advance. That’s just the way it was.”
Having family support was always on hand.
“My parents and extended family were always there for me, offering their support. I have to thank them so much for that.”
Sally’s aunt made an incredible gesture.
“She offered to be tested as a possible match as a living kidney donor,” says Sally.
“Going through all the tests and taking time out was an unbelievable gesture on her part. We have a great bond.
“The first time she was ‘worked up’ for the process, it was delayed due to Covid. We were on schedule for surgery in May. The second time in July that I was to undergo the living donor transplant, there were too many anti-bodies present for the operation to go ahead. It was a massive blow.
“You have yourself built up for it. The transplant was to go ahead on the Monday. On the Friday before I was told I’d have to wait another eight weeks to check if the anti-body count had reduced in order for the operation to proceed.”
In August, it was determined that the anti-body blood count was still too high. Sally was looking at another six months to get her life back.
“I was back on the list again. My chance of a new lease of life had been snatched away.”
Then she got that all-important, life-changing call back again.
“Out of the blue I got a call advising me that a deceased donor had become available,” says Sally.
She had to leave home in 20 minutes and make her way to Beaumount.
Sally’s faith and trust paid off.
“I had prayed everything would be all good and that this was meant to be,” says Sally.
“I recovered well and was Zoom-ing and on WhatsApp almost straight away after surgery!”
Sally realises that her salvation could be the result of a tragedy for another family who loses someone somewhere.
“I will always have a special connection with my donors,” says Sally.
“I send a thank you card to them via the hospital every year. It is so important to acknowledge the wonderful gift they gave me.
“Every day I remember the freedom I now have and the new opportunities that are within my grasp.”
Sally makes the most of her precious gift.
“I don’t sweat the small stuff. I enjoy the little things in life and I look to the future,” says Sally.
“I like to think that the families of the deceased donors get some solace from knowing they gave another the gift of life. Those families made a difficult choice at a difficult time. It is really important to remember those donors and their families. They have done so much good.”
Organ Donor cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01-6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. To contact the Cork IKA, phone: 086-2755754 or visit the website: