Like any young bride-to-be, Sinéad Lowndes (29) was enjoying preparing for her wedding day. It was all booked for early 2019. She was happy and healthy, she'd just started a new part-time career and was enjoying being a mum to Paige, her one-year-old daughter.
But in the weeks running up to her wedding, Sinéad went to her GP complaining of severe stomach pain. She was told to go to A&E immediately. “ I was in complete shock, I had pains and bloating and I looked about 7 months pregnant," she explains. In November last year, she was admitted to hospital. Tests revealed she had a very rare liver condition called Budd Chiari Syndrome.
This condition only affects one in a million adults and is caused by a genetic mutation of her blood. It is a complicated condition that causes blood clots. In December, Sinéad was told that clots had been found in and around her liver and that she would need a liver transplant.
"A true warrior"
Sinéad's family say they are blown away with how much bravery she has shown in the face of such a difficult diagnosis. “For anyone who is fortunate enough to know Sinéad, they will tell you that she is a generous, caring, loving girl with a heart of gold. She is always the first to reach out to help others in a time of need. Sinéad has shown strength, positivity and a huge amount of bravery, despite how terrified she is of what she is about to endure. She is a true warrior.”
Sinéad’s wedding to partner Stuart was postponed to deal with her immediate health issues. They rearranged their big day and finally got married last February while she was being monitored as an outpatient. Her sister Michelle says it was a day they will never forget. "It was the most magical day for all involved. She looked so beautiful.” Her daughter Paige also joined in the celebrations with the young couple.
"The bravest, the strongest, the kindest and most amazing mother"
But just a month later, Sinéad fell extremely ill again and was admitted back into the hospital. Doctors explained that she had developed another blood clot in her bowel. Suddenly, the words "double transplant" were being discussed. Sinéad and Stuart were told that she might need a small bowel transplant in conjunction with the liver transplant. This would have to be done in the UK.
Despite the overwhelming nature of this news, Sinéad’s family says that she has remained “the bravest, the strongest, the kindest and most amazing mother.” Now, the young newlyweds, along with their daughter, will travel in the week to Cambridge to await the transplant, which could take at least two months.
After the surgery, Sinéad will have to stay in the hospital there for about three months and then remain close to the specialists in London for another nine months. Stuart says they are blown away with the way everyone has rallied around them. “People have been so supportive. My employers have been incredibly supportive during this hard time too and when I’m in a position to return to work, my job will be there for me. Sinead has had to leave her career too.”
"There is always somebody worse off than you."
Most of the bills in the UK are covered by the HSE, but living expenses, bills and their mortgage in Ireland will have to be covered. Friends have rallied around to raise funds to make sure that the couple can focus on Sinéad’s operation and recovery rather than financial worries of living in another country for a year. They've organised pub quizzes and a fundraising page. Sinéad is also using the opportunity to highlight the importance of becoming an organ donor. "There’s always somebody worse off than you and seeing the people in the corridors here in St Vincent's hospital, everyone should think about becoming an organ donor."
Her brother Paul said they are all determined to maintain a positive outlook. “Sinéad is the best person in my family by a country mile. The kindest, the nicest and the most thoughtful. She's also the bravest and has weathered all of this with grace, poise and an untouched ability to smile".
We wish Sinéad and her family well. You can show your support to the family here.