Wednesday 19 December 2018

Three Cork grandfathers get life-saving kidney transplants within weeks of each other

Donal O’Flynn (77), Dermot O’Connell (70) and Charlie Keane (67) Picture: John Allen
Donal O’Flynn (77), Dermot O’Connell (70) and Charlie Keane (67) Picture: John Allen

Three Cork grandfathers, with a combined 13 years of dialysis treatment, have recently undergone life-saving kidney transplant operations within weeks of each other.

Two of the men, Charlie Keane and Dermot O’Connell, aged 67 and 70 respectively, underwent their transplants at Beaumont Hospital within hours of one another.

Then weeks later, one of the men’s friends, 77 year old, Donal O’Flynn, also got called for a transplant thanks to another deceased donor.

The trio were speaking this week to highlight the Irish Kidney Association's Organ Donor Awareness Week 2018.

Dermot said: "It was a huge coincidence that another patient, Charlie Keane, who like me also attended dialysis treatment at the same hospital as me was called for a kidney transplant on the same day as me.

"Remarkably, it took ten days for the transplant kidneys to start working properly in both of us and we were carefully monitored and required three dialysis treatments before the kidneys functioned on their own. Our surgeon Dilly Little surmised that our lazy kidneys just needed time to wake up.

"Sharing the same donor’s kidneys is such an unique life altering experience and Charlie and I have become friends since. It came as a huge surprise that within weeks of our transplant, my friend Donal O’Flynn and who had been receiving dialysis treatment for nine years was called for a kidney transplant.

"I know that I also speak for my two friends when I say that the three of us are immensely grateful to our deceased donors and their families for our renewed health and the second chance at life that we can now enjoy with our families.”

Charlie said: “When I received the diagnosis that my kidneys were failing over 16 years ago, instead of letting it get me down, I decided to take control of my health and became active.

"I took up swimming every day and in the last couple of years I also attended the gym. I found that keeping fit was great for my physical and mental health. The retired Eircom manager continued, “With the help of a great team at CUH including consultant nephrologist Liam Plant, as well as medication, diet and lifestyle changes, keeping active and fit, it wasn’t until 9 months before my transplant that my kidney function had declined to a point where I could no longer continue without dialysis treatment.

"I have been very fortunate that the dialysis worked very well for me and I was grateful that it was keeping me alive and allowed me to carry on as normal. I know that I am also very lucky not to have had to wait longer than 9 months for my transplant which came on the week of my birthday and before Christmas.

"I was undergoing dialysis on a Sunday morning when at 7.30am I received a call from the transplant coordinator in Beaumont saying they had a kidney match for me.  I finished my dialysis session and was brought to Dublin by taxi and I remember the taxi driver kept me calm on the journey as he chatted away with me. By 6pm that evening I had woken up from my transplant operation feeling no pain. 

"My way to thank and honour my donor is to continue to embrace the extended life that I have been given by keeping active through swimming and continuing to appreciate spending more time with my wife Caroline and my family including my four lovely grandchildren. I now have made a new friend in Dermot O’Connell. We have a unique friendship now as we each have both experienced organ failure and can be grateful to the same deceased donor for our transplants. We are now kidney twins!”.

Mark Murphy, CEO of the Irish Kidney Association, said: "2017 was a record year for organ transplantation for Ireland with a total of 327 organs being transplanted into 321 patients including a total of 23 children/paediatric transplants.

"It is thanks to the gift of organ donation that almost 3500 transplanted people in Ireland are enjoying extended life."

"The selfless and profound generosity of the families of 99 deceased donors in Ireland resulted in a total of 260 deceased donor transplants taking place in 2017. The 260 deceased donor organ transplants comprised 141 kidneys, 62 Liver, 16 Heart, 36 Lungs and 5 pancreas transplants.

"A record of 51 living donor kidney transplants were also carried out by the Beaumont Hospital transplant team. Last year the record 311 transplants were carried out at Ireland’s three transplanting hospitals. Of these 311 transplants, Beaumont carried out 12 paediatric kidney transplants in Temple Street Hospital from both living and deceased donors”.

The key message of Organ Donor Awareness Week is that families need to talk to each other about organ donation and keep the reminders of their willingness to donate visible by carrying the organ donor card and permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence.

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