“The measure of life is not its duration but its donation.” -Peter Marshall
There is no greater act of love than to donate an organ to someone in need. Young Tilly Coyle is living proof of the power of organ donation.
When little Tilly made her entry into this world in 2014, soon after she experienced renal failure, and at only three weeks old she was on kidney dialysis. That continued until she was 4 years old when she received a kidney from her daddy, Aidy, and she underwent that kidney transplant in October 2018.
Fast forward just under four years, and at the end of last month, Tilly was in Leeds competing for the Belfast Children’s team at The British Transplant Games in Leeds. The St Mary’s, Teemore pupil was one of eight children from Northern Ireland competing.
The journey for Tilly, her parents Aidy and Jolene, her three sisters Mia, Charlotte and Jodie, as well as extended family and friends, has been filled with emotion. From the worry to the joy, and everything else in between.
“In the beginning, Tilly wasn’t really expected to survive” recalls Jolene. “In our head, we used to think ‘get to transplant, get to transplant’. You kind of don’t think of the other side but when you see how ‘normal’ life is.
“Yes, she’s still up and down to Belfast when she goes to clinic every eight weeks to get checked over to make sure her kidney is working but, yeah, we went on our first holiday this year, it was the first year she was allowed to travel.
“You don’t think of it much day-to-day but when you see things like the Games, it really brings it home how far you’ve come.”
Prior to Tilly’s transplant, she was receiving dialysis 12 hours a night and “she had difficulty walking and she never ate until after transplant and now she’s eating, she’s drinking, she’s walking about, she’s running” said her mum.
While she admits Tilly still has “some difficulties with her mobility,” she is now able to go to school and “she has loads of wee friends and she’s going into P4 now, just a normal life that she didn’t have before. An odd trip to hospital but very few. She’s doing great, ” delights Jolene.
At The British Transplant Games the seven year-old competed in the obstacle games, the 40 metre track run, the ball throw, sports stacking and the 3K donor run which the Coyle’s did as a family.
Reflecting on the whole experience, Jolene praised the event and what it has done for her daughter;
“It was amazing for her, she was able to see she wasn’t the only one. She met other children, even though you see other children in hospital, you’re up and down at clinic, you don’t really know them. She met the seven other children that went with her and their families and she would say ‘oh they’re like me’.
“It was emotional for us, for her she probably got on with it. At the end she was like, ‘aw, I can’t wait to go next year’, it’s in Coventry next year. It was really eye-opening for her and for her sisters and really inspiring.”
Jolene also heaped praise on the Renal Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, whom she says; ‘without them, I don’t know, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are.’
While Tilly will have to have one and possibly two more kidney transplants during her lifetime, this young Teemore girl is the epitome of strength in the face of adversity and will no doubt show the same courage and determination with any future hurdles she has to overcome.
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