For former Dromore High School pupil Ruth Creaney a trip to Newcastle this weekend marks the starkest of contrasts.
Along with close friend Sharon Millen from Lisburn, Ruth is off to compete in the British Transplant Games, an event that’s a far cry from her life before her vital liver transplant.
Hillsborough native Ruth was saved by her operation and hopes that by taking part in this weekend’s actionshe can help save lives.
“We’re doing it to raise awareness for organ donation,” she said. “It’s so important that people join the organ donor register and have that conversation with their families to tell them that they want to donate their organs. That’s because the family have the final say and can still refuse, even when the person is on the register.
“I think it’s great for everyone to see the quality of life that people can be given and how those who benefit from transplants can go on to play sports and to do so much.”
Ruth had a history of liver problems since the age of just seven but the real difficulties couldn’t have come at a worse time.
She said: “When I was young, I was put on steroids, which worked for a while but in 2009 I got very sick. I had just got engaged and was trying to plan a wedding so it was all very difficult.
“We had planned the wedding for 2010 but knew we would just have to wait and see when a transplant came up.
“Four months later, I got the call that a young girl had died and donated her liver. They were actually able to split it in two and use it for both myself and a six month old baby.
“I had a liver spot on my cheek and I remember waking up a few days later to see it had gone. It was great to see that everything was working ok.
“That was in January and I was able to get married in September.
”It’s made such a huge difference. If I hadn’t had my transplant, I would have died but instead I have gone on to get married and have kids.”
At the Games, Ruth says she is keen to “stay away from the running” at all costs and so she will be competing in two cycling events, the discus, shotput and the ball throw.
“I’m just happy that I can take part,” she said. “Five years ago I couldn’t walk to the front door and now I’m doing this.”
Ruth competed in the 2011 Games in Belfast, after which there was a sharp increase in people signing up to the organ donor register, but there is much hard work still to be done.
The British Transplant Games begin on Thursday and run until Sunday evening.
You can sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk.