Noreen and her dad an inspiration to those awaiting kidney transplants
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Most of us would claim to have busy lives. Mitchelstown woman Noreen O'Halloran's life is busier than most though. Four times a day - before she leaves for work, at lunchtime, when she gets home from work and again just before she goes to bed - Noreen must undergo dialysis, which takes 25 minutes each day. It must be done seven days a week too, so weekends away or any change in routine must be carefully planned. Noreen's not complaining though, far from it. She is remarkably upbeat and optimistic and wants others in her situation, awaiting a kidney transplant, to be the same. She considers herself lucky to have dialysis and points out "if it was a heart, lung or liver transplant needed, we wouldn't be so fortunate."
Noreen's case is unusual in that her dad, Tom is also awaiting a kidney transplant. They both suffer from hereditary polycystic kidney disease. Noreen's dad, from Ballylanders, county Limerick, has already had two kidney transplants. The first lasted for three years and the second for nine years. He's now waiting for that all-important emergency call again from the Beaumont Hospital transplant team, as is Noreen.
35-year-old Noreen works as an accounting technician with a legal firm in Cork. She found out she had polycystic kidney disease at the age of 18 but says it didn't really affect her health until she was 33. She married last year, six months after she began dialysis. Now she and her husband Brendan Hannon have to plan their lives around her daily treatment.
While her dad has his dialysis in hospital, Noreen opted for the self-administered CAPD dialysis. It means having a tube in her abdomen constantly and a laborious daily routine. As a result her day must be strictly regimented. There are dietary restrictions for Noreen too, she can't eat chocolate for example, or high salt meals, she must restrict her food and veg to two servings per day and she's allowed only 200mls of dairy a day so, if she has milk in her tea she can't have a yogurt or other dairy product. "That was a big adjustment," she says.
She must also attend hospital regularly for blood tests and other checks. Plans to start a family must wait until after her transplant. Like her dad, Noreen carries her phone with her at all times, making sure it's always fully charged as she waits for the call to tell her a donor has become available. "I'll be nervous when it comes, sure, but I really want it," she says.
Noreen is delighted that recent national media coverage of her and her dad's story has resulted in an increase in requests for donor cards. She is, understandably, passionate on the subject, urging people to carry a donor card or to sign the back of their driving licence or else inform a family member of their desire to be a donor. She also believes people should consider becoming a living donor if they have a family member or friend on dialysis, pointing out that they only need one kidney.
PLAY YOUR PART
At present more than 1,800 people in Ireland are receiving dialysis treatment. There's 600 people on the transplant list, not just for kidneys but for other vital organs. "It is a hard discussion to have, but there is no greater gift or legacy to give," she says. "Please include the information telling people how to get an organ donor card," she urges us as part of this artlcle. We're happy to oblige: an organ donor card can be got by texting the word DONOR to 50050.
Noreen has set up a blog documenting her experience, including her burdensome daily routine. In it she explains that she opted for home treatment to enable her to continue working as she feels it is a useful distraction. She also credits her dad as being her inspiration for the strength he has shown in managing his condition for the past 30 years.
Speaking to The Avondhu this week, Noreen also wanted to mention her mother Ann, whom she said had been such a support to her and her dad. "She drives dad to dialysis if needs be and has been through it all with him. Her life is dad and he has relied on her throughout."
FUNDRAISING TABLE QUIZ
Ever practical, Noreen asks one more thing - that we mention a table quiz they are holding in The Hunter's Rest, Mitchelstown on February 1st. Tables of four are €10 per head and all are welcome. All proceeds to the Irish Kidney Association.