Cookstown woman gives sister gift of life

All smiles - Pauline McGlinchey and her sister Ann Mulligan. INTT3813-127ar.
All smiles - Pauline McGlinchey and her sister Ann Mulligan. INTT3813-127ar.

COOKSTOWN woman Anne Mulligan said she didn’t even think twice when she found out her sister Pauline Mhig Loinsigh needed a kidney, she just did it.

Speaking exclusively to the MAIL just seven weeks after their operations, Anne and Pauline tell their story of how the organ donation came to be.

Pauline was diagnosed with Stage 3 Renal failure 11 years ago, and was told that there would be a decline in my kidney function.

Pauline said: “Over the last ten years my kidney function just declined and declined. They suggested a kidney donor before I would get as far as needing dialysis.

“They then approached the family first to go for the test to see who would be a match, and luckily there were three matches in the family. Then it was a case of who was going to be the donor. The three of them were all keen, my brother wasn’t a blood match and Christine my sister offered too but Anne was straight in and said I’ll do it.”

Anne said: “Myself and Pauline are very close and because of that I was the one that opted to be the donor first. Once I had made my mind up that was it, I didn’t look behind me. My sister needed a kidney and a kidney she shall have.”

The women, who spend their early lives in Edendork, had their operation at the City Hospital in Belfast on 26th July but the operation was not as straightforward as first thought.

There was a problem when the kidney was initially transplanted into Pauline, but some follow up surgery solved the problem and gradually the kidney began to function.

Pauline and Anne are still both very much in recovery and told the MAIL the healing process will take a while but have a great support network from the hospital and their families.

Anne said: “We can’t speak highly enough of the staff and surgeons on Ward 11T at Belfast City Hospital they did so much for us and still continue to do so now. We are so lucky to have such support, our families were great, we couldn’t have done it without them. I don’t feel any different and I am proud that I did it. It was very emotional process, but it really is the greatest gift you can give.”

Pauline added; “If the shoe was on the other foot I would have done exactly the same.”

While Pauline and Anne were still in hospital following the operation they had a surprise visit from Derry GAA footballer Joe Brolly who himself donated a kidney. Anne said: “Joe came as a bit of a surprise visit, it was lovely for him to come in and take the time out of his schedule to come in and talk about his experience and hear ours as well, it was lovely, we’d like to thank him for that.”

Speaking to the MAIL, Joe said it was a ‘huge thing’ that Anne did for her sister. He said: “It is a tough process for the donor, the operation is very complex and it is a very significant decision for anyone to make in their lives.

“The impact is huge, but it is a tough process for the donor. Much tougher for the donor than it is for the donor. The operation is much more complex and there is a much longer recovery time.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of it, don’t forget although it’s tough and you have to go through the pain barrier and all of that, the risk can be summed up in this way; in the UK in general over the last five years there have been at least 3000 living donor transplants and all of them have been safe, the living donor has come to no harm, no living donor has died. So that gives you an idea of the safety standards that apply.

“The great benefit of it is that the loved one goes on to lead a long life. It is a huge thing and it has a huge positive message in the local community. I’m delighted for them and that they are both doing so well.”

Joe added; “There are other benefits as well, I have become a sex symbol since I gave the kidney, an unlikely sex symbol.”