A NORTH Kerry man whose life has changed dramatically since undergoing a double kidney transplant four years ago has stressed the importance of organ donation as the country marks Organ Donation Week this week.
Jackie Healy from Addergown near Ballyduff was 62 years of age when he got the life-changing call from Beaumont Hospital telling him a match had become available, and four years after his successful operation, he hasn't looked back. Luckily Jackie had only been waiting 11 months for his transplant operation and had not yet started dialysis, but says his quality of life was abysmal while suffering from kidney disease.
"My kidney function was at 20 per cent and it was my diet and tablets that were keeping me going, so my doctor had told me that he was putting me on dialysis on my next visit," he said. "I was cold all the time, I had no appetite and no energy and I could have slept 20 hours a day. I had been working as a hardware salesman but I had to give that up because I just had no energy to continue."
Because kidney disease had taken the life of his father and grandfather, Jackie has been carrying a donor card for over 27 years. Little did he know, however, how important organ donation would be until it was his turn.
"It's just pot luck and when a match becomes available you get a call. I remember the phone call from Beaumont at 6.55am and by 7.40 I was in Ballyduff with a garda escort ready to go to Dublin," Jackie said. "It wasn't until I was heading in for the operation that I was told I was getting two kidneys. I was so lucky because people only ever tend to get one. I had the bag ready for 11 months so I was thrilled to be there."
Immediately after the operation, Jackie said he knew he was on the road to recovery.
"I cant explained it but when I woke up I felt completely different in my body. It was like I knew they were working," he said.
After 12 days in hospital, Jackie returned to north Kerry and ever since has been living a totally healthy life.
"I'm absolutely perfect now. I can do anything, and if I'm honest I'm better now than I was for the 25 years before the operation when the signs were probably there but I didn't realise it," he said. "It has changed my life completely and that's why it's so important that people carry donor cards and consider organ donation because it can transform a person's life."
Now full of energy and healthier than ever, Jackie is encouraging as many people as possible to support the Irish Kidney Association's fundraising collection in Listowel this Thursday, April 4, which had been organised as part of national Organ Donation Week.