Brave Michaela (16) sits her exams while waiting for a kidney
While studying for exams is a tough time for many students, it is even more of a challenge for Michaela Delany (16).
The Clondalkin teenager, who is waiting on a second kidney donation, is one of 59,522 students beginning their Junior Certificate exams today.
A student of St Patrick's Cathedral Grammar School, Michaela remains "confident" about her exams, despite regular trips to the hospital and the resulting tiredness caused by organ failure.
She had been in good health after her first kidney donation until recently, said her mother Liz, who is hoping to donate one of her own kidneys to her only child.
"Michaela was born with a kidney disease and had her first transplant at the age of two," Liz explained.
"She was the first to have it at Crumlin Hospital and the youngest and the smallest. I don't know how it is now, but at the time it was quite irregular for it to happen at that age.
"After that, life took off for her and she went to school but in the last year or so, that kidney started to fail.
"She is waiting for a donation and has been told that after her Junior Cert she may have to go on dialysis.
"I am undergoing the living donor screening process at the moment and am hoping to donate one of my kidneys to her."
In the meantime, Michaela has had to continue with her studies as per normal, with huge support from her family, teachers and friends.
"It is tough for her because if she was in hospital she would be getting special allowances. She has a separate centre but that's it, she sits her exams like the rest of the teenagers.
"She gets tired a lot because of the organ failure.
"The school has been fantastic in giving her a dig out. She is interested in her studies and likes school, it is a lovely school.
"She is taking it all in her stride. What else can she do?"
Michaela even had to go to Crumlin Hospital to get her bloods done on the evening before the exams but remains brave about it all, even though some of her classmates are nervous about the Junior Cert.
"I'm feeling okay and am just glad that the exams are finally here," she told the Herald.
"I have been studying a lot in the last while and feeling confident. My friends are a bit nervous about it.
"I'm sometimes tired and stuff, and have to go to appointments. My mam helps me a lot with my study."
Although the teenager has yet to decide what career she wants, her favourite subject is English.
She is looking forward to a rest, once her exams are finished next week.
Among Michaela's supporters is RTE reporter Vivienne Traynor, who is a first cousin of her dad Dermot. The broadcaster is a voluntary ambassador for the Irish Kidney Association.
Last week Vivienne joined Liz and Dermot at the Run for Life in support of organ donation and to raise funds for its charity organiser, the Irish Kidney Association.
Over 500 participated this year in the family fun run at Corkagh Park in Clondalkin.
Michaela's dad Dermot scooped first place in the 10km event several times, but this year walked the course due to a sports injury, while his Liz ran.
"I was really proud of her, she did great," Michaela said.
Also participating was Vivienne's nephew Martin Traynor, to whom she donated a kidney before he underwent another transplant from a deceased donor.
Meanwhile, 56,596 will sit the Leaving Certificate this year and 2,811 students will sit the Applied Leaving Certificate.