Queer Irish activist Orla Tinsley talks 'invisible disabilities' on Late Late Show

Orla Tinsley sat down with Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show last Friday, December 3, on “Surviving and thriving after double lung transplant”.

Orla Tinsley on Late Late Show
Image: YouTube

“I’m sitting here with you right now because a person decided to be an organ donor.”


Activist, writer and lung transplant veteran Orla Tinsley spoke eloquently on the subject of being immunocompromised during the Covid pandemic and the importance of keeping those around us safe.

“I have an invisible disability, you know?” they said, on the importance of masking up to protect who may not be as healthy as they appear. “You can’t tell that I have cystic fibrosis anymore because I no longer cough which is pretty cool.”

Tinsley, the star of RTÉ’s documentary Warrior, underwent a life-saving double lung transplant almost four years ago and since then they have been a vocal advocate for their fellow transplant patients.

“I feel so lucky and I want this for everybody who needs it,” they said, outlining the three major changes that they would like to see in Ireland regarding transplant patients and care. “We need to ringfence the operating theatres; we need to ringfence the ICU beds; we need to make the Mater a cystic fibrosis centre.”

The activist, who Tubridy describes as “an enlightening person” and “a beacon of hope”, spoke out about cases where a transplant candidate had a medical match with an organ donor but the surgery could not go ahead because of a lack of ICU beds or available operating theatres. While this is partly due to a lack of resources as a result of the pandemic, Tinsley is calling for this to change.

“It’s not like we’re at the beginning of the pandemic, we’re two years into it now,” they pointed out. “We know what’s needed, we know what’s required, right? It’s really really important.”

Another important element in the equation that Tinsley describes as “the gift of life”, is the organ donor.

“I’m sitting here with you right now because a person decided to be an organ donor,” they said, explaining to Tubridy that they were on the most extreme form of life support, an Ecmo machine which is essentially a bypass for the lungs.

“I can’t compel anyone to be an organ donor,” they go on to say, “but I would say just hopefully listening to me tonight and, you know, just hearing this story might help them think a little bit about it. Because when you’re gone, you don’t need your organs anymore, but there’s someone here who gets four more years of life with their family…

“There’s many possibilities but it can’t happen without the donor. It doesn’t happen otherwise.”

You can listen to Orla Tinsley tell Ryan Tubridy about these issues in full here.

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