When she crossed that finishing line in Dublin on Sunday after more than 26 miles there was one little girl who was on Jolene Coyle’s mind after a marathon lasting almost five fours – her five-year-old daughter Tilly who has run quite the race herself.

Described as a “wee princess”, Tilly from Teemore was diagnosed with renal failure at seven days old and last year her “superhero” father Adrian selflessly donated a kidney to her without hesitation. Beaming with the brightest smile, Tilly hasn’t looked back since.

Now her parents spend much of their time matching the love that Tilly shows them and their three other children; Mia (10), Jodie (eight) and Charlotte (two) which is why Jolene took part in the Dublin marathon at the weekend in aid of the Children’s Kidney Fund NI.

“Tilly was a very sick little baby and at three weeks old they started dialysis and we were in hospital for five months at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Belfast. It has become home from home now at this stage,” Jolene told The Impartial Reporter.

Dialysis lasted for 12 hours every night meaning Jolene and Adrian “were tied to the house” for four years until October 2018 when news emerged that Tilly needed a kidney transplant and both her parents were eligible to donate.

“It was a very scary time. Both Adrian and I were matches, so it was going to be him or me. You expected them to say it is you or you but to say you are both matches. We had to make that decision.

“He did it, he was the braver man and there were no questions asked. I had to give up my job and Adrian was off work for 12 weeks after the operation. Tilly had a tough time after the transplant and it took her three months to recover. One of her lungs collapsed and then she took a chest infection which turned into viral meningitis.”

Then in January of this year Tilly woke up one morning “like a brand new girl”, laughs Jolene.

“She is a normal cheeky little five-year-old and has caught up with all her peers. She is getting there, she started school in Teemore and is like a little celebrity. She has reached milestones that you never thought she would achieve, and she has done it all with a smile on her face. She cries when she gets needles then thanks the nurses afterwards,” she said.

She has described Adrian as “the rock in our house” who “drops everything to do what he needs to do for us”.

“He knows what she needs when she needs it; he has the bag packed for the hospital in seconds. It has been a very stressful time, and it has brought us closer together. I couldn’t do it on my own.”

On Sunday Jolene who has been a member of Derrylin’s Rock Runners since Tilly was born competed in the Dublin marathon after her sister Grainne “signed me up without telling me”.

“It marked a year since Tilly’s transplant so there was no better way to mark a milestone in our lives. When we were doing it Grainne and I talked about Tilly and the operation on our way around, we had t-shirts with the charity logo on them and people were shouting ‘Go Tilly’. It was emotional and uplifting and there were tears when we crossed the finish line,” she said. On her Just Giving page which can be found by searching ‘Jolene Coyle’ almost £6,000 has been raised for the charity.

Tilly is a “special little girl”, said Jolene, adding that after having two healthy children “you assume it will be the same but she has opened up our eyes to other people in the community who have problems”.

“She is amazing, a wee fighter, and we appreciate every second of every day. Everything we do we do it as a family and everyone has been amazing.

“Mia says ‘I think we are famous’ because people come up to ask about Tilly; they tell us they are praying for her. You couldn’t imagine it any other way. Tilly has brought so much love and hope into our house,” smiled Jolene.