Saturday 1 October 2016

'To be out of pain, that’s going to be incredible' - Irish mother set to undergo life-saving operation in US after raising €160,000 to leave Ireland this weekend

Geraldine Gittens

Published 07/06/2016 | 20:01

Marina and Alan Killoran at their home in Newbridge Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Marina and Alan Killoran at their home in Newbridge Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Marina and Alan Killoran at their home in Newbridge Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Marina, Alan and their daughters Shannon and Erin.

An Irish mother who is set to undergo a life-saving operation in the US after a successful online fundraising campaign will depart Ireland this weekend.

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Marina Jordan Killoran (45) has a crippling auto-immune disease called Systemic Scleroderma, for which there is no cure available in Ireland. She will undergo a life-saving stem cell transplant this summer in Chicago.

Incredibly, the family raised €160,000 here through an online campaign – enough to cover the cost of the ground-breaking treatment.

“It’s all systems go. I’m just ready to get this thing started. It’s been a bit of a slog but it’s like it’s within my grasp now. All along it was a dream that I had but now it’s become a reality,” Marina told independent.ie this evening.

“I’m prepared for what I have to face, but the long term gain is a lot better than what I have to face at the moment.”

“I can have some kind of normal life again. Even the idea that I won’t need crutches, andto be out of pain, that’s going to be incredible. To not fall asleep with pain, and just to feel like everyone else does – relatively normal.”

After some tests in Chicago, Marina will begin conditioning chemotherapy which will prepare her body for the stem cell treatment. Over a period of six weeks Marina will have her stem cells harvested and cleaned, before undergoing intensive chemotherapy.

“Essentially the treatment is to kill off the old immune system, and build a whole new immune system.”

Read More: 'It is going to be six weeks of very intense medical treatment' - Irish mother with rare disease prepares for life-or-death operation

“They will basically reinfuse my body with my cleaned stem cells. Then they’ll watch and wait to see how my body takes to it. I could be in hospital for another eight to ten days depending on how my body reacts.”

“My body will copy the cells that are clear of the disease, and my immune system will create more cleaned cells.”

Marina’s treatment, which has been pioneered by Dr Richard Burt, is called a super cardiac friendly transplant.

“There aren’t that many people that have received it. I wouldn’t have been able to receive the older treatment because my lungs have been damaged and that has put pressure on my heart.”

Marina will arrive back in Ireland on August 14, with a brand new immune system. She will miss her daughter Shannon’s 21st birthday while she’s away.

“It’s the first time that I’ll ever have been away from the girls Shannon and Erin (17). We’ve never gone away without the girls.”

“It’s going to be sad. When Shannon turns 21 I’ll be thinking of her and I’ll be talking to her on the phone. My mam and dad are going to do something special with her, and when I’m back we’ll do something special with her. When she was born, I didn’t think that 21 years later I’d be travelling to Chicago for treatment to save my life.”

Marina, Alan and their daughters Shannon and Erin.
Marina, Alan and their daughters Shannon and Erin.

“It’s not something you would chose - to be away from your daughter at a milestone in her life.”

Read More: 'I'm euphoric, this is a second chance at life' - Irish mother with rare disease has raised €130k for operation

Marina thanked the Irish public for their generosity, and for making her trip to the US possible.

“I’m so blessed because it’s the people of Ireland that have made this possible. It’s hope for other girls who have this too and who have been told there’s really nothing we can do.

“I’d like to thank everyone - family, friends, people I went to school with. We’re so, so lucky to have the most amazing friends and family, and the kindness of people I never met. I just can’t get over how kind everyone has been. It’s been absolutely so wonderful. The letters, the cards… any letters that we received we replied to every single one of them.”

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