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Paddy’s story – a grateful organ donor recipient

Paddy McGovern

Paddy McGovern

Patrick McGovern, from Virginia, Co Cavan, is a liver transplant recipient.  This is his story:

In life people gather stories of experiences and events that are life changing.  We all have our stories to tell and these are what shape and define us.  If we are lucky, sometimes we get to survive the most challenging circumstances. I have been given the chance to survive an exceptional turning point and to know every day what it feels to be blessed. 

I had been diagnosed with a very serious liver condition called Primary Schlerosing Cholangitis in 2008. At the time my symptoms were minor and I lived ably with this disease without any major ill health for many years. I knew that the disease was progressive but my good health disguised this. I had always led a very active and normal life, as is the norm for someone who is relatively young. I appreciated my busy life and loved my work. In the end the disease caused a very sudden and rapid decline, which caught us all by surprise.

Sudden decline

My real journey began on Christmas Day, 2019. My decline was very sudden and resulted in several hospital admissions and interventions during the early months of 2020.  I was advised that my situation was not likely to improve and after a short time I was experiencing very serious symptoms.  By late March I was being considered for a liver transplant. Following another serious set-back in May, I was placed on the transplant short list.  Within a month, I was admitted once again to hospital and it became clear that I needed a transplant urgently and could not return home. I was kept under specialist care at that time and my decline accelerated rapidly.  For four weeks we lived in hope every single day that I would receive the lifeline that I desperately needed.  I was advised during this time that I was living with a time bomb.  I was seriously ill when I received the news that a donor liver had become available.  It is not an exaggeration to state that this news had come to me just in time.  The remarkable team in the hospital swept me up and took care of me and I was caught up in the momentum of the promise of a second chance.  For the first time in a long time I dared to think that things might be ok.  To me and my family it really felt like a miracle at the time.

'Turning point'

It is difficult to describe how we all felt when the news finally came. We had very strong mixed emotions. Relief and hope were blended with sorrow and guilt because we knew that we had been given a chance of new life because of the loss of someone dearly loved by their own family, who had been taken ahead of their time. My transplant surgery was my turning point.

The day after my transplant I was transformed and my recovery was immediate.  My donor liver had within 24 hours repaired my body and I now looked like the person I used to be the colour of life was already in my face.  I had received an amazing liver.  Within 36 hours my donor liver had removed most of the toxins that were causing my extreme ill health.  After three days I was eating and mobile and on the road to a rapid recovery.  After 52 days in the expert care of the team in St Vincent’s, I was finally allowed home.  A home that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. There is truly no place like home!

 'Life is now normal again'

I have continued to recover and improve and have gone from strength to strength.   My life is now normal again and my outlook is so hopeful.  I feel stronger than I have felt for years.  Every day I count my blessings and every day I value life and give thanks to the family who saved me, even though we will never meet.  I have been given a second chance and I will treasure it.  It is wonderful to have this story and to have been given this special new gift, one that I will safeguard for many, many years to come.


While 2021 was a challenging year for organ donation and transplant services, the HSE’s Organ Donation Transplant Ireland Office (ODTI)  reported that by year end, 203 organ transplants had taken place thanks to the generosity and kindness of 99 organ donors and their families.  Thanking all those families who elected to donate organs and save lives, Dr Catherine Motherway, HSE Clinical Lead, Organ Donation said:

“It is an honour to be able to work with families who time and time again find it in themselves when faced with the sudden death of a loved one ot think of others.  We cannot express enough, our gratitude.  In death our donors give life.”

Watch interview with Paddy McGovern on RTE News: