A RECORD number of people who needed an organ transplant were given the gift of life last year.
There were 294 transplants carried out thanks mostly to deceased donors as well as the selfless gesture of some people who donated one of their kidneys to a relative or friend.
Their generosity was honoured at the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week today in the Mansion House by Health Minister James Reilly.
Mark Murphy of the Irish Kidney Association said the highest number of transplants yet were carried out but the number of donors was the same as a decade earlier.
He said: "With 86 deceased organ donors in both 2013 and 2003 thanks to medical advancement in Ireland, 69 more organs were transplanted last year than a decade before."
Organ donation will benefit further with a €2.9m investment this year by the HSE which will include the recruitment of organ donor co-ordinators who will liaise with grieving families of a loved one in hospital.
“This is a major step in elevating organ donation in Ireland and will give encouragement to the 550 people or more on transplant waiting lists."
He particularly praised the Mater Hospital’s lung transplant figures for the year saying it conducted "a staggering 32 lung transplants in 2013 surpassing its previous record of 14 in 2012.”
He added:”The Mater’s lung transplant programme, set up nine years ago, is now placed third on the European lung transplant table. 11 heart transplant operations were also carried out there while St Vincent’s Hospital did 55 liver transplants.”
Last year an additional 38 people benefitted from living donor kidney transplants which brings the total number of living kidney transplants to 155 since the commencement of the programme at Beaumont Hospital seven years ago.
“In 2013, Beaumont Hospital carried out 147 kidney transplants from deceased donors, of which 11 were combined with pancreas transplants."
However, he warned that the “the widespread loss of discretionary medical cards for all patients who are chronically ill and reliant on high-tech medications, is having a devastating personal economic effect on all the 3,000 transplanted people in Ireland.
“In addition, the 1,800 dialysis patients’ future relies on hi-tech medications.”
He urged the Minister to “re-examine this cohort of patients, as I fear for these people if nothing is resolved.
“I am also concerned that very few transplanted people will ever return to employment due to the almost automatic loss of their medical cards in the future.”
Organ Donor Awareness Week which begins on Saturday will see the Irish Kidney Association’s volunteers on the streets, and in shopping centres throughout the country, selling forget-me-not flower emblems, brooches, pens and shopping trolley discs.
All proceeds will go towards the Irish Kidney Association’s aid for patients on dialysis and those patients fortunate enough to have received a kidney transplant.
A spokeswoman said the Irish Kidney Association’s charitable activities include the provision of a 13 double bedroom free accommodation facility, for patients and their families, in the grounds of Beaumont Hospital and holiday centres located in Tramore and Kerry.
It also offers patient advocacy, advice, financial aid and rehabilitative, health promotion and provision of kidney patient information and education.
All the services are free to patients and their families.