Tuesday 23 May 2017

We thank donors every day

My mother, like all organ recipients, is indebted to the donors for the sacrifice that saved her life, writes Lisa Mellon

THE act of organ donation is an example of human kindness in its purest form. In emotionally charged circumstances, grief-stricken loved ones of an organ donor make the altruistic decision to save others while at the same time losing a life that is precious to them. In last week's Sunday Independent, Sara Kavanagh shared her experience of losing her father, and how she and her family made the selfless and overwhelmingly generous decision to donate his organs. Sara expressed her disappointment at not receiving personal thanks from these organ recipients.

Last week's article caused worry and upset amongst a number of patients in the portrayal of organ recipients as ungrateful for their gift of life. I would like to reassure Ms Kavanagh, by outlining the other side of the story, and putting to rest any negative impressions that may have been cast regarding organ recipients.

My mother, Marie Mellon, has suffered with end stage renal disease for the past 30 years. On two occasions she received a kidney transplant, and she is currently on dialysis treatment whilst awaiting a third transplant. She has spent a total of 15 years on dialysis. I have never known her to be healthy and illness and hospitals are the status quo in our household.

Despite this constant battle, not a day goes by where my mother does not offer up a word of thanks to those two individuals and their families who enabled her to go on living, for without their gift of life, she would undoubtedly have lost the fight years ago, and I would have lost a mother.

Individuals awaiting kidney transplantation undergo gruelling dialysis therapy three times a week for an indefinite period. Quality of life is limited and the side effects are many. Having met countless dialysis patients and transplant recipients over the years, I can vouch for each and every one when I say that each one of them is acutely aware of the gift of life that is organ donation, and the sacrifice that is made on their behalf.

If there is a common consensus that organ recipients are not grateful enough to express their thanks, this is simply untrue. The majority of patients do contact their donor family and for those that don't I emphasise that there are sincere, thoughtful reasons for this. Some people may feel inadequate and have a sense of survivor guilt, or feel that the donor family have suffered enough and do not want to intrude in the grieving process. A percentage of patients do not survive transplant surgery, and do not actually get the chance to express their thanks.

In addition, it can take a long time for a person to recover physically and adjust mentally following transplant surgery. Their new reality can be too overwhelming to grasp all at once, which is why saying thank you may take some time. For others, words quite simply fail them in expressing their gratitude.

One only has to attend the yearly Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, watch our Transplant Team Ireland competing in Transplant Games overseas, or simply speak to any transplant recipient to know that each and every organ recipient is indebted to their donors and their families for giving them a chance at living.

Sunday Independent

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