Wednesday 23 January 2019

How organ exchange across the Irish Sea saved two lives

Stacey Kavanagh. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Stacey Kavanagh. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

A devoted daughter is over the moon thanks to an organ swap programme that saved her mother's life - and also gave a young mystery man a new lease of life.

When Stacey Kavanagh, a 37-year-old digital consultant from Stepaside, Co Dublin, learned her mother Gail (61) was suffering from kidney failure, she and her brother Paul (32) didn't think twice about donating one of their kidneys.

They were devastated when they later learned that neither of them was a compatible donor. "We just took it for granted that we'd be a match," she said. "But we were miles out."

They assumed their only option was to go on the deceased organ donors waiting list. However, after a meeting with the transplant team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, near their mother's home, they learned of a little-known organ exchange programme between Ireland the UK.

It is called the paired exchange programme and allows voluntary donors to donate their organs in conjunction with donors on either side of the Irish Sea in order to broaden the 'pool' of potentially compatible donors.

"It was like winning the lottery," Stacey said of learning of the programme last October.

She went into a pool of other donors and then got a call informing her that there was a compatible match.

Her kidney would be transplanted into that of a young man in his 30s while a kidney donated by the young man's father would be transplanted to her mother.

Both Stacey and her mother underwent the transplant operations in Birmingham in mid-January while the anonymous father and son also had their surgeries at the same time and they are all doing well, she said.

Gail now has almost 50pc of normal kidney function back and is on the road to leading a normal life again, she said.

Stacey, meanwhile, is back at her job at Standard Life.

She is hosting a 'Big Kidney Quiz' fundraising event tonight at Dicey's pub on Harcourt Street in aid of the Irish Kidney Association and Birmingham Hospital's kidney patients' association. All are welcome.

Irish Independent

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