Hero doctor donates kidney to colleague
Saving a person's life is all in a day's work for Galway GP Dr Ruth Smith - but when the tables were turned she found an unexpected hero.
Dr Smith (46) received the priceless gift of a donor kidney from her friend and GP colleague Dr Noel Howard (39), allowing her to undergo a transplant.
The two medics worked alongside each other in the same practice for a decade in Salthill when Dr Smith, who was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in her 20s, suffered a deterioration in health and had to go on dialysis.
"I underwent peritoneal dialysis which took eight hours at night. By nature, I am a positive person and while I felt quite tired I continued to care for my patients," said the mother-of-three.
Dr Smith and her husband Alan were good friends with Dr Howard and his wife Roisin, who also have three children.
When it was clear she needed a transplant Dr Howard stepped forward to be screened as a possible kidney donor.
Dr Smith's husband was not deemed compatible, but Dr Howard was a perfect match.
He said: "For me, donating a kidney was an easy decision.
"I wanted to help my colleague and friend. I had seen how organ transplantation transformed the lives of some of my patients.
"I felt that rather than just talking about it this was my chance to step up and make a difference."
The operation took place in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin in September last year. Dr Smith said she has never felt better and did not realise how unwell she was.
"I had just been plodding along. My family and I have so much to look forward to and it's thanks to Noel," she said.
Both were back at work looking after their patients a few weeks after the surgery.
They are asking the public to discuss donation and to support the Irish Kidney Association's Organ Donor Awareness Week which runs from today until April 8.