‘It really is the gift of life’- recipient

Gary McCorkell and his sister Sharon pictured at her home in home in the Waterside
Gary McCorkell and his sister Sharon pictured at her home in home in the Waterside

A Derry woman has spoken of how her life has been transformed in the six months since her brother donated a kidney to her.

Sharon McCorkell and her brother Gary have now urged others to consider joining the donor register to potentially give others the ultimate gift, the gift of life, following their own family’s experience.

Sharon fell sick in late 2014 and went to see a doctor in December that year.

“That’s when I started to get really poorly,” she said.

“Both kidneys had failed. I was sort of relieved when I heard what it was because I wasn’t feeling well, tired, no energy and just feeling sick. That was going on for a few months before that.

“I had to then get a drain in my neck for haemodialysis. I had to get that down at the start of every day in hospital. They said I was very ill. I didn’t realise I was so ill.”

Sharon was on dialysis for some months and her condition continued to deteriorate.

The 43-year-old Gobnascale woman later learned how to do the CAPD (Peritoneal Dialysis Catheter) which goes into your stomach,

at home.

“This is the one you manually”, she explained. “I had to get a tube in the day after Boxing Day. Every couple of hours you do that. You put the fluid in for a few hours and leave it. This went on three times a day at the start.”

She was then trained by a nurse to go on to a dialysis machine for eight hours a night, every night. “I was on that until 29th September last year.”

At one stage, Sharon’s renal function was recorded at just 5%, and she was told a transplant was needed. The family had been tested some months prior to the actual transplant, and Sharon’s elder brother Gary, (46) was found to be a match.

“He said to me from the start, ‘If you need one I’ll be giving you one,” Sharon said. “And he did, he stuck to his word.”

“There was no hesitation at all,” Gary said. “I would do it for anybody, to be honest, especially your family. There was no nerves, no nothing, just straight to it.”

The operation was scheduled for October 2015, but was then moved forward as Gary explained.

“We were up getting tests, and one of the nurses then said: ‘What about a cancellation’, and I said, that’s ok when is it? The sooner the better, that’s what I said to Sharon. Let’s go.”

The operation went ahead at the City Hospital, Belfast on September 30th, with the siblings being brought in the day before.

“I was out the next day,” Gary said. “I was up and about the next day, that morning. I was walking up and down the ward, the nurses were looking at me saying, ‘It’s nice to be up, but you shouldn’t be up’.

“After the operation I found myself drained a wee bit, just tired but after a couple of months I was myself again.”

Sharon said she too recovered quickly from the three-hour operation.

“I felt great. You just feel brilliant, more energy now. My colour was terrible before, my eyes were dead.”

The brother and sister have now urged others to join the donor register.

“We would urge people to come forward now.” Gary said, while Sharon added: “It really is the gift of life.”

Sharon said she wanted to thank Bridgeen and her colleagues and all the staff at the Renal Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital, while the siblings have also thanked those who were involved in the transplant, including doctors James McDaid and Tim Browne and the nurses at the City Hospital.