The story of CF activist Orla Tinsley's life-saving surgery to be told in RTÉ documentary 4 years ago

The story of CF activist Orla Tinsley's life-saving surgery to be told in RTÉ documentary

With a limited life expectancy, Orla believed her 30th birthday would be her last one.

A new documentary set to air on RTÉ One next week will tell the story of the Cystic Fibrosis campaigner and her almost nine-month wait on a transplant list in New York, before finally undergoing life-saving surgery last December.


The 31-year-old Kildare native reveals all about her lifelong battle with the disease and how she wanted cameras to capture her gruelling wait for a lung transplant, even though there was a risk she would die while filming.

Tinsley first rose to prominence in Ireland when she campaigned for improved services and better access to drugs for people living with Cystic Fibrosis. However, after moving to New York, her health deteriorated when she suffered a bilateral lung collapse.

Having left Ireland to study for a Masters in Creative Writing at Columbia University, she turned 30 in NYC, and, at almost the same time, was put on the list for a double lung transplant there.

Forced to postpone her studies, Orla’s condition deteriorated throughout 2017 and by December she was on life support at New York Presbyterian Hospital.


A prominent activist for organ donation, Tinsley wanted to highlight every detail of her ordeal, to showcase the huge importance of signing up for a donor card.

Filmed over 14 months, Orla Tinsley: Warrior charts her failing health, the excruciating six false alarms, and the lucky seventh transplant call which arrived just in time to give Orla a new chance at life.

“I’m a campaigner and advocate for people with cystic fibrosis and I’ve always shared parts of that experience in order to help people understand it better and to get better services and healthcare for people with CF in Ireland," Tinsley said ahead of the documentary's release.


"So when I knew that I needed a transplant I wanted to capture it in some way that even if the outcome wasn’t positive, people would see what the journey was like and consider being organ donors.”

Orla Tinsley: Warrior airs on Monday, 17 September on RTÉ One at 21.35.