Tuesday 6 December 2016

Courageous Irish brother Caoimhin (9) donates vital bone marrow to save his sister’s life: 'I’m so happy I could do it for her'

Published 20/05/2015 | 11:44

Caoimhin O'Donovan with his sister Shona
Caoimhin O'Donovan with his sister Shona
Caoimhin O'Donovan with his sister Shona and mum Luighseach and dad Kevin pictured with Anton Savage of Today FM.

An Irish boy has been commended as the bravest young person in the country after he donated bone marrow to his sister in order to save her life.

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Caoimhin O’Donovan (9) from Corofin Co. Clare saved his sister Shona (9) when he donated vital bone marrow after she was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia last summer.

“I was staying with my cousins while Shona was in Crumlin and I knew that her bloods were bad and I was very worried,” said the school boy speaking to Today FM’s Anton Savage.

“I always said I’d be tested and I’d try. I was tested and I was a good match. They told me that I would stay two nights in hospital and they would do the operation and put the needle into my back 50 times. I was a bit scared,” Caoimhin admitted.

Caoimhin’s mum Luighseach became concerned with Shona’s health in July 2014 when she noticed that she was bruising very easily.

“Shona was bruising and we took her to the doctor. We knew there was something wrong. Within the hour of taking her bloods at the hospital we got a phone call to come straight into Limerick. There was a team of doctors waiting for us,” said Luighseach.

Caoimhin O'Donovan with his sister Shona and mum Luighseach and dad Kevin pictured with Anton Savage of Today FM.
Caoimhin O'Donovan with his sister Shona and mum Luighseach and dad Kevin pictured with Anton Savage of Today FM.

“It wasn’t until we got into Limerick that we realised the seriousness of it all. Things went very quickly after that. She was transferred to Crumlin the following day by ambulance."

Shona’s bloods were analysed and consultants found that her blood counts were very low.

“At first we thought it was Acute Leukaemia but no, it was Aplastic Anaemia. In September we knew it was definitely bone marrow failure,” she said.

Aplastic anemia is a disorder that damages stem cells in the bone marrow and causes blood marrow failure without a transplant, which luckily Caoimhin was able to provide to his sister.

“The doctor told me that I was a brilliant match and I was delighted,” said Caoimhin who underwent an invasive transplant procedure on December 18 to donate bone marrow to Shona.

Luighseach spoke of how proud she is of her son for being so courageous.

“All along Caoimhin was adamant that he wanted to be tested to see if he was a match for Shona.

“To be honest the December 18 was the day the transplant took place and the two of them were very sick but they could see each other through the glass.

“Caoimhin was very sick and very sore and he was allergic to the medicine with codeine and Shona had just finished chemotherapy so she was quite weak. It was tough,” she said.

Caoimhin has since recovered from the procedure and Shona is on the path to recovery after the family’s difficult few months.

“Shona still has her visits to Crumlin every week or two,” said Luighseach.

“There’s always a danger that Shona can reject the bone marrow at any stage so we’re just at the minute hopeful .

“Shona is still transfusion dependent which is unusual but she is very strong. She’s a little fighter and hopefully it will be fine.

“There’s been times when myself and Kevin needed support and Caoimhin has been there and we’re very proud of him. They’re unbelievable at times,” she said.

Caoimhin was last night honoured with the Young Person of Courage Award at the Pride of Ireland ceremony run by The Irish Mirror.

The nine-year-old said he has no regrets and that he feels lucky to have had the chance to help his sibling.

“I’m very happy that I did it because not a lot of people can help their family. Shona only has one brother and I am a match. There was another girl who had a brother and a sister and none of them were a match so I’m happy I could do it for her,” he said.

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