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‘I believe that by donating a kidney to me, my brother saved my life’

Seven years after transplant surgery, Ed and John Reynolds are encouraging people to talk about organ donation

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Ed (pictured on the right) donated one of his kidneys to his brother John. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Ed (pictured on the right) donated one of his kidneys to his brother John. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Pictured are brothers John & Ed Reynolds. Two months ago Ed (pictured on the left) donated one of his kidneys to his brother John.

Pictured are brothers John & Ed Reynolds. Two months ago Ed (pictured on the left) donated one of his kidneys to his brother John.

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Ed (pictured on the right) donated one of his kidneys to his brother John. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Nearly seven years after Ed Reynolds (52) donated a kidney to his brother John (48), they are encouraging everyone to discuss organ donation.

The brothers, who are originally from Ashbourne in Co Meath, now call May 23 their “kidneyversary” and mark it every year.

Ed, who now lives in Holywood, Co Down, recalled the day after he donated his kidney when the brothers were in different rooms in Beaumont Hospital.

“The next morning, which was the May 24, 2016, was John’s birthday and I was being encouraged by the nurse to slowly get out of bed and to move around a bit,” he said.

“So, in a haze of heavy medication and a sore body, I shuffled across the corridor and in to see John and wished him a happy birthday – and joked that I forgot to get him a birthday card and present.”

John, who lives in Dublin, was told he should not have been alive because he so badly needed a new kidney. ​

“My quality of life has changed so much that when I look back to where I was before the operation, physically and mentally, it is hard to comprehend,” he said.

“To wake up after the operation and feel that cloud of fatigue, frustration, anger and loneliness was gone, was a massive change in my life.”

John was told in 2004 that he had a kidney condition but that it would not affect him until much later in life. However, after just 10 years, in August 2014, he collapsed to the floor.

“I thought it was a heart attack, but I was told that I had chronic kidney disease,” he said.

John said the transplant has given him the opportunity to “see life in a different light and to live in the moment”.

“I am very grateful for what I have in my life and the people in my life,” he said.

That includes his partner, Diana, who he met five months after his life-saving operation.

“Only for Ed, we would never have got a chance to meet. I believe that by donating a kidney to me, he saved my life,” he said.

“I am also an addiction counsellor, a job that I love, working with a recovery team in inner-city Dublin who see and feel the same way as I do in my outlook on life. We have that compassion and respect for people who need to feel a human connection in their time of crisis and helplessness.

“To me, it is about being available to give back to our fellow humans in a real and honest way and being excited and happy doing it. I feel I was once in that position in August 2014 when I was told I was dying and I had fallen to my knees in crisis and fear.”

John credits the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) for supporting him at the time and said “the IKA was there to guide me and listen to my story of desperation
and loneliness”.

The brothers also support the new Human Tissue Bill.

Last month, the IKA said the publication of the bill “is a major step forward in replacing the outdated Anatomy Act 1832”.

“When transposed into law, how this proposed new legislation will be communicated to the public will be vital in ensuring the public are aware that organ donation is still subject to family consent, unless the loved one has previously opted out by entering details on the proposed new national opt-out register,” it added.

Ed said: “My quality of life has remained pretty good, with no issues in having just one kidney. I fully support the Human Tissue Bill and think it is good that the topic of donation is in the news.

“It makes for a good conversation amongst family and friends. It opens up a whole new thought process amongst siblings and wider family circles. Questions like ‘could I?’ or ‘would I ever?’ need to be asked and answered.”

This year it will be seven years since the donation and Ed said: “Never be frightened at the chance of giving somebody the gift of life.

“The process of donating as a living donor is relatively easy and uncomplicated. The actual kidney donation procedure is far less invasive than it used to be and it leaves little or no marks on the donor’s body. Honestly.”

John said: “I was given a second go at life and I believe I’m alive to give back hope to others. Donating an organ makes incredible changes in the lives of the recipients but also for their loved ones and their lives.”


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