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Monday 25 June 2018

This farmer's life was transformed by a kidney transplant - Now he’s giving something back

Sean Vaughan pictured on the family farm in Kilbane, Co Clare. Photo: Liam Burke, Press 22
Sean Vaughan pictured on the family farm in Kilbane, Co Clare. Photo: Liam Burke, Press 22
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

'I'm really grateful and I haven't looked back since." That's how 19-year-old farmer Sean Vaughan describes his life since receiving an organ donation for kidney failure in 2016.

From a young age, Sean always enjoyed helping his dad John out on their family suckler farm, but in 2014, during the middle of fourth year in secondary school, he was shocked when he was diagnosed with kidney failure.

"I just started to have less energy on the farm in the evenings and began to get lots of headaches, so I went to my local doctor and was then sent to hospital in Limerick and diagnosed with kidney failure," he says.

"I was shocked. I didn't have much time to think about it. Doctors said I'd very high blood pressure so that could've been the reason for it."

Farmer Sean Vaughan on his land at Kilbane, Bradford, Co. Clare. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22
Farmer Sean Vaughan on his land at Kilbane, Bradford, Co. Clare. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22

While studying for his Leaving Certificate he travelled with his parents, John and Bernie to University Hospital Limerick three times a week so that he could undergo dialysis.

"I tried to do home dialysis for a while but it just didn't work out as there were different complications. The days after coming off dialysis you'd be very tired and coming up to the next dialysis you'd feel your energy dropping again. I used to study with my books in the hospital," he says.

None of Sean's family were a successful kidney match but in 2016 he was taken aback when he got the call from Beaumont Hospital in Dublin that they could have a match for him.

"I really wasn't expecting the call. I tried not to think about when I would get the call, there was no point because some people have to wait for years for a transplant and sometimes they're not successful," he says.

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"I was only on dialysis for a couple of years at this point but when we got the call we travelled to Dublin and got to Beaumont before 8am the next morning," he adds.

Sean explains that much of that day was spent carrying out tests to see if the kidney was suitable as it's all about the "perfect match".

"I did tests all that morning and luckily it was a good match.

"The operation took four and a half hours and I just remember waking up at 4am on the Tuesday morning feeling very sedated but in recovery," he says.

Farmer Sean Vaughan on his land at Kilbane, Bradford, Co. Clare. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22
Farmer Sean Vaughan on his land at Kilbane, Bradford, Co. Clare. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22

While Sean spent many weeks in recovery he says since the transplant his life has changed for the better.

"I haven't looked back since, to be honest with you. I'm on medication but you wouldn't mind that as long as you feel OK from day to day," he says.

One of the biggest benefits of the transplant for Sean is that he has gotten his freedom back and is able to work on the family farm again.

"I've just so much energy. I didn't have any energy before. I've so much more freedom and I can do things and don't have to be asking to go places. I'm able to do a full day's work now," he says.

There's one person that can't be forgotten in all this however - the deceased organ donator and his or her family.

"I'm so grateful to that person and to their family. To carry an organ donation card is a brave thing to do, there's no doubt about that. I'd encourage everyone to carry a card. It's a great thing to do and it changed my life," he says.

As well as helping out on the Limousin and Whitehead cross herd during the week along with his sisters Caroline, Sarah and Anne, Sean also does placement on a dairy farm nearby as part of his Green Cert training. While suckler farming is close to his heart, he says there's no harm in learning how the other side operates.

Recovery

"There's a lot of talk about dairy at the moment so it's good to get experience on a different farm to what you're used to,"he says.

During his recovery time in Beaumont Hospital he received first class treatment in its kidney support centre and his parents were also able to stay there.

Now, Sean wants to give back and has decided to organise a tractor run in aid of the Irish Kidney Association in his local village of Kilbane.

"I just always had it in my head that I'd like to do something for the charity and the hospital. They did so much for me.

"My parents were able to stay the night there free of charge and a couple of months after the transplant I went for check ups there. It's a small thank you to them for their support," he says

All tractors big and small are welcome to take part in the tractor run.

Registration is at 11am in Gunnings bar this coming Sunday, April 8 and costs €20 per tractor.

There will be food on the day followed by a raffle and music courtesy of the Boatman band.


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