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Derek’s Story – Organ Donor Awareness Week 2024

Written by Derek O’Sullivan, from St. Luke’s in Cork (native of Knocknaheeny, Cork) who underwent a heart transplant in 2017.

My name is Derek O’Sullivan, from St. Luke’s in Cork. I can proudly say I am 46 years old (thanks to my donor) and husband to Joanne, and father to Laura and Henry. In 2017 my life was saved with a heart transplant.

When I was 25 on a football pitch, very healthy and fit, I passed out mid-game. I came around and thought nothing of it, finished the game, and went home.

The following day, I began to feel uneasy about it so went to my GP. He sent me to A&E where they took me in and ran a battery of tests.

It took a while, but eventually, I was diagnosed with a heart condition call SVT (sustained Ventricular Tachycardia), which my mother had succumbed to and passed away when she was 46, the same age as I am now.

Fast forward to 2017, and Managing quite well with an ICD, an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator, which is a device implanted inside the body.  I suddenly started getting multiple shocks from the ICD, all of which were completely necessary. It basically was keeping me alive. After multiple attempts with new drugs and interventions, to try to overcome this issue, I received the grim diagnosis of early-stage heart failure. Whatever about me, this was a  huge shock for my family having already lost my mother who passed away from same condition and she was just a few years older than I was at the time. This was a stark reminder to me of my vulnerability.

We struggled through for another 6 months or so with multiple shocks, multiple drug changes, and multiple ambulance trips and hospital stays.

I cannot thank Gerry Fahey and the staff at Cork University Hospital enough for the care I received at this time.

We eventually received confirmation that I was in end-stage heart failure and things weren’t looking good for me. Joanne, my then partner, now wife, planned a wedding and we got married 10 days after I made it onto the transplant waiting list.

Two weeks later I suffered a terrible episode, which really could have been my last. Again, the amazing team at the Cork University Hospital stabilized me before transferring me to the Mater Hospital.

There was a strong indication that I would be removed from the transplant list, as my organs had shut down and I was no longer suitable for transplant.

The Critical Care Unit at the Mater, somehow, and I don’t know how, got me through the following two weeks and ready for transplant.

Some amazing selfless family was kind and considerate to think of others, in what must have been the most awful of times, to give me a lifeline, the gift of life.

I say ‘me’, but it’s my whole family – Joanne, Laura, Henry, and my father who were also impacted. My father went through a terrible time worrying about me and making regular almost daily trips from Cork to the Mater Hospital. My daughter Laura was doing her Leaving Cert that summer. I cannot imagine what they all were going through. But remarkably, we all got through it, thanks to my donor family and the incredibly hard-working staff at the Mater Hospital.

I cannot, and will never be able to, thank all the team at the Mater enough. Lars Nolke and the rest of the transplant team, Barbara, Tomcy, Alex, and Sarah who brought tea.

The renal team, the physio team, the phlebotomists, I was heavily medicated through  a lot of this, so my memories are vague, but the level of manpower that were involved in my care is mind-boggling.

So, here we are… the outcome – I ran a 5k on Bere Island on the anniversary of my transplant, a stark contrast to the months before my transplant, I was sleeping on the couch because I just was so weak I was not able to climb the stairs.  I have boundless energy now, more than I’ve known in 20 years. I get to live a full life and my kids still have a dad. We’ve set up a business and employ 10 people. None of these things would have happened without that wonderful person and his family deciding to carry that organ card or ticking that box when applying for their driver’s license renewal.

We cannot urge people enough to do the same thing!!!!

Yes, the hospital team is amazing, yes, the science is off the chart, yes, we as a family all have a normal life now, but none of it is possible without organ donors. So, please consider being one so that another family can be given hope and a chance of a loved ones life being saved. It’s so important to get this message out, and I really want to thank the Irish Kidney Association and the Irish Heart and Lung Transplant Association for this platform to say my piece.

Visit for more information and to get an Organ Donor Card.