“EVERYTHING changes, you just get your life back.” The words of two sisters from Crossgar who received kidney donations from their siblings – a remarkable story of sibling love. Diane Chillingworth’s world was turned upside down in 2020 when at the age of 55 she received life changing news that she needed a kidney transplant. Just two weeks later it emerged that Diane’s sister, Michelle Linden, then aged 51, also needed a kidney transplant. The sisters had previously been diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).
Their late father also had PKD but it remained undiscovered until his death aged just 43. In fact, Michelle only just found out about her PKD when one of her cysts ruptured and she was rushed to hospital and battled sepsis. Following this, her diagnosis was confirmed. Having suffered from kidney infections all her life, Diane got tested and she too was diagnosed with PKD. The girls, who describe themselves as ‘mirror images of each other’, said that they were brought closer together by hearing the news that they both needed transplants.
Their family all wanted to help and thankfully, there was a match and the sisters were able to receive a kidney. Their sister Annarose donated to Diane and their brother Noel donated to Michelle. In a strange coincidence, their nephew Liam Smyth, a medical student, had his first placement at the Ulster Hospital Renal Unit, so he was able to see exactly what his aunts were experiencing. Liam wanted to donate too and actually was a match, but Annarose was closer. He still remains keen to donate in the future to someone else and urges everyone to “speak to people and get educated” if they are thinking about donating their organs and describes the process as “ invaluable”.
Diane and Michelle praised the staff saying that they are “fantastic” and “like a family. Life has changed significantly for the sisters following their successful transplants and their energy is soaring. They insist: “There is nothing in this world that we could give Noel and Annarose to thank them for what they’ve done for us, because they gave us a new life.”