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Noreen’s Story – Organ Donor Awareness Week 2024

Written by Noreen Murphy, Liver transplant recipient from Cork living in Macroom and working as an Operations Manager and Coach specialising in neurodiversity.

My story is a little bit different to many other transplant stories. Life pre-transplant was of near uniformly good health and no known diagnoses before waking from a coma to hear the words:

‘Welcome back Noreen. You are in the intensive care unit in St Vincent’s hospital, you’ve been in a coma and have had an emergency liver transplant and everything is going to be OK’.

At the time, I racked my brain, and try as I might, my most recent memory was of handing a letter to the receptionist at Tallaght Hospital several weeks earlier after being referred by my GP for a scan of my gallbladder.

When my family arrived at the hospital, grey with worry and exhaustion, they filled in the blanks for me. The medical team in Tallaght Hospital had identified that there was an issue with my liver and sent me after 3 nights to St Vincent’s Hospital and the doctors there set to work providing me with steroids to calm down my immune system which had made the inconvenient decision to attack my liver. When this treatment didn’t work, I was placed in an induced coma and from here was placed on the super urgent transplant list as my time was running out.

Thankfully, in the first week of March 2019, I was fortunate enough to receive an organ from the UK and I woke up a week or so later post-transplant to a new normal.

The doctors and nurses at St. Vincent’s Hospital were wonderful and provided gold-standard care and support to both me and my family. However, at times, I struggled to adapt to my new normal, that is until I was five months post-transplant and thanks to a message online met with 15 strangers, all liver transplant recipients who came from all over Dublin to meet in a Costa Coffee to talk about their experiences and provide tips on how to manage medication and communicate with the medical team. It was in that café sitting across from these people, some of whom were 18+ years post-transplant that I finally believed I was going to be ok.

From this one meeting, grew a network of peer support called the Robins which includes people from all over the country and provides non-medical common-sense advice and support. I, along with several group members run meetups both online and in person every month in different counties so that others can feel that same reassurance that I needed so many years ago.

My life post-transplant is different, but in many ways, it is richer, and it has opened me up to connecting with so many wonderful new people that I would never have had the chance to connect with in my old life.

It is with sincere gratitude to organ donation and to a selfless family in the UK, who when faced with the ultimate tragedy, chose to save other families, whom they would never know, from experiencing that same heartbreak by choosing organ donation.

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