Eilish's Story

With Organ Donation Week just past it is a great opportunity for donor families, transplant patients, the wider NHS and organisations to reinforce the importance of organ donation.


Only 46% of the population in Northern Ireland are on the NHS Organ Donor Register.


We met Eilish McAteer, an EO2 in DfI, who last year was waiting on a life-saving liver transplant. We recently spoke to Eilish to see what life was like one year on - in one word…….WONDERFUL…

Eilish explains:

In the early hours of 24 October 2019, I was contacted with an offer of a liver for me. Within hours I was in Kings College Hospital London Hospital. I was listed for surgery at 8.30 am on the 25th October, pre op selfie with the surgical team “Bring it on – lets smash this” says I  “see you on the other side”…not one nerve in sight.

After the operation my darling hubby and dear son and heir arrive at ICU to find me fully awake alert and grilling the ICU nurse about when I could go back to Belfast. It would take more than a liver transplant to shut ME up. They could not believe it.

I was moved into a normal side ward within 18 hours of going into theatre, walking about within 24hrs. As per my surgeons, I basically “took their rule book, ripped it up and rewrote my own”, ye see - I’m a bit impulsive and headstrong like that.

A brief blip on day 5 post op where they reduced the anti-rejection medication too quickly and I turned yellow overnight with jaundice. (Picture Marge Simpson without the blue hair but covered in freckles) we were sorted. The transplant took a lot out of me physically don’t get me wrong, it was after all the surgical equivalent of running 2 marathons back to back. But that’s all in the past.

Scheduled check-ups in the RVH continue. Because of Covid -19 I work from home but almost a year later, I feel wonderful. My new liver is functioning 100% and I have got my life back. The hardest part was writing my letter of thanks to my donor’s family. Only then did I realise how far I had come.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done.  Exactly how do you tell someone that the death of their loved one gave me back my very life back whilst their loved one is still gone?  My joy is their sorrow.  I have yet to hear back from them, I don’t know if I ever will, but for my peace of mind I needed to write it.

England has recently introduced the “OPT OUT” organ donation system. If we applied the same laws in NI so many more lives could be saved.

Despite my transplant I am still a donor. 

The question is …. Are YOU?

Have you thought about it?

You can find out more information about what’s happening on organ donation and to register click here.