Uchenna Opabola says she is grateful for a second chance at life.
This week marks Organ Donor Awareness Week, the focus of which is to raise awareness about the ongoing and ever-increasing demand for organ transplantation.
Here in Longford, a Nigerian native and Irish citizen, Uchenna Opabola (39), experienced first hand the importance of organ donation after she received a second chance at life seven years ago with an organ transplantation.
Uchenna received a vital lifeline thanks to a deceased kidney donor.
At the time of her transplant, Uchenna - an accountant by profession - had been undergoing dialysis treatment throughout the night at her Edgeworthstown home for over three years.
It was taking its toll on her and made her daily commute to work at an accountancy practice in Dublin very difficult.
Then in 2011 she underwent a life changing transplant at Beaumont Hospital and hasn’t looked back since.
Uchenna explained that in her teens she experienced kidney problems from time to time but it wasn't until after she moved to Ireland in her twenties that her kidney function began to decline.
“I was taken under the care of St Vincent’s University Hospital and was carefully monitored,” she said, before pointing out that together with medical supervision, and lifestyle and dietary changes, she managed to stave off dialysis treatment for several years.
However, by 2008 her kidney function had declined to just 8% and Uchenna was left with no alternative but to begin dialysis treatment.
“I found this period of my life very difficult as I was overwhelmed with tiredness most of the time and still had to continue commuting to work,” she added.
“This was when the country was gripped by an economic recession and as my illness took hold I had to reduce my working days.
“The dialysis was keeping me alive but I was physically and emotionally drained, and at one stage I became very ill when I developed peritonitis.”
Then came the transplant and as Uchenna says herself, “my life has been completely transformed since my transplant”.
She pointed out that she now has so much energy and is no longer adhering to a strict timetable around dialysis treatment.
“I enjoy the freedom this brings including the opportunity to travel and I no longer feel tired,” smiled Uchenna.
“I am embracing my gift of life; I also enjoy helping out in my community and with my local church.”
Uchenna went on to say that she has sent a letter anonymously to the family of her deceased donor through the organ transplant coordinator at Beaumont Hospital in which she expressed her sincere gratitude.
“I give thanks to God for my donor every day for giving me a second chance at life,” she continued, before pointing out that she hoped by sharing her story for Organ Donor Awareness Week 2018 that she could encourage more people to discuss organ donation and understand how it can save and improve the lives of people just like her.
Meanwhile, approximately 550 people in Ireland are awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants.
And it’s thanks to the gift of organ donation that almost 3,500 transplanted people in Ireland continue to enjoy extended life.
The key message of Organ Donation Awareness Week is for families to talk and remind each other about their willingness to donate by carrying the organ donor card and permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s license.
The Awareness Week also serves as a fundraising exercise for the Irish Kidney Association and volunteers will be out on the streets, and in shopping centres throughout the country, distributing organ donor cards while selling 'forget-me-not-flower' emblems, brooches, pens and shopping trolley discs. All proceeds will go towards the Irish Kidney Association’s aid for patients on dialysis and those patients fortunate enough to have received a kidney transplant.
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