My name is Orla, I’m 25 from Toomebridge and suffer from Crohn’s disease, a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
There are over 8,500 people in Northern Ireland suffering from IBD, with no known cure at present. One of the main symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be passing blood, which in turn can cause anaemia and the need for a blood transfusion. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s back in 2009 just as I was starting university to study Psychology. My condition progressively got worse, after trying every type of medication and alternative therapy possible I required emergency life-changing surgery to remove my large bowel and have an ileostomy formed. At the age of 20 it was a huge shock, both mentally and physically. During this time I required blood transfusions both before and after my surgery as I was extremely ill. Due to ill health I also developed pneumonia and my right collapsed lung, causing me to require chest drains to be fitted all my down my right side which were unfortunately unsuccessful.
As a result I was transferred to The Royal for two consecutive lung surgeries to re-inflate my right lung. My recovery was a long and gradual process, but with the help and support of my loved ones I returned to university a few months later to restart my final year. I graduated in July 2012 with a 2:1 in Psychology, and went on to complete a Masters in Health Psychology, despite having another major surgery in-between to remove the remaining part of my large bowel and make my ileostomy permanent.
Six months after my final surgery, despite ongoing wound issues, I began to train to take part in the Belfast Marathon Relay, running for a charity that I am a founder of called Let’s Talk Crohn’s & Colitis NI. I also began pole exercise classes with my friend, doubtful that I would have the strength or ability to do much due to my ileostomy, scars, and total lack of muscle due to ill health. However, I have proved myself and many others wrong and exactly two years on from my last surgery I am feeling healthier and fitter than I have ever done. My next big journey ahead is moving to Australia in November with the aim to pursue a job in the Health Psychology field that I have studied in.
Without blood transfusions I wouldn’t be here, never mind be well enough to do all the things that I love to do!