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Son receives life-changing kidney donation from ‘selfless mother’


Jenny Ishmael and her son Andrew who she donated a kidney to

Jenny Ishmael and her son Andrew who she donated a kidney to

Jenny Ishmael

Jenny Ishmael


Jenny Ishmael and her son Andrew who she donated a kidney to

A Galway man is preparing to leave hospital after receiving a life-changing kidney transplant thanks to his “selfless” mother.

When Andrew Ishmael first started experiencing kidney difficulties in his late teens, he had no idea what the next decade would have in store for him.

Speaking from his room in Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital, the young chef, 29, said he is “happy out” and hoping to be discharged this weekend.

He and his mother Jenny both had surgery on Monday morning and are ahead of schedule in their recovery.

“My recovery is going so, so well. They [doctors] are impressed with how it’s going. The kidney is working perfectly. Everything it needs to be doing is going well. We’re just waiting for one number to come down a little bit before I can go home, and I’ll find out about that in the morning. So, it could be tomorrow, or Sunday,” he said.

“My mom is feeling good, you know the surgery was always going to be a bit harder on her because I was always going to be gaining something and she was going to lose something. So, her body has to adapt to losing something, whereas I started feeling like I had a bit more life in me as soon as I woke up from surgery.”

Mr Ishmael was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy – a disease that can limit the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from blood – when he was 16 years old and has “been dealing with it since”.

IgA nephropathy is typically more common in older people and Andrew was told it would likely become a bigger issue in his 30s.

He explained that there a number of metrics which kidney specialists monitor and when he returned home from a college placement in the US, his chart “looked like a stock market crash”.

“There was a steep drop, and that’s when we knew that this had to be taken seriously,” he said. “By the time I was 24 years old, I was down to about 35pc kidney function.”

In May 2021, the family travelled to Connemara for a birthday party and while on the beach Andrew’s feet got sunburned. What seemed like an ordinary inconvenience initially, became much more serious.

Due to his condition, his legs began to swell up. He was later told in hospital that he developed cellulitis, a blood infection, and his kidney function “plummeted”.

He began dialysis in hospital and later underwent two surgeries to have a “set of tubes” and a catheter inserted, so he could do peritoneal dialysis at home.

Mr Ishmael said being able to do dialysis at home improved his quality of life “considerably”, as it “picked up the job of my kidneys”.

In November 2021 he joined the kidney transplant waiting list, which has an average wait time of 35 months.


Jenny Ishmael

Jenny Ishmael

Jenny Ishmael

Andrew’s mother Jenny came to him the following September, having discovered that they were a potential match.

“It wasn’t a straight ‘yes’ because I know about all the complications that come with this donor surgery… There are so many things that can happen, and I was thinking, do I really want my mom going through this,” he said.

“I voiced these concerns to her, but her mind was made up. It took me two days of thinking about and when I gave her my answer, I wasn’t happy with it, but the pros outweighed the cons."

The family arrived at Beaumont hospital on Sunday and spent the evening together.

The next morning Jenny was taking to the operating theatre first. Andrew said it was a “daunting experience” knowing “that she would be going through all this pain to take me out of pain”.

By 4.30pm that evening both procedures had been completed and Andrew was brought the ICU for post-op. He said the benefits of the operation we apparent immediately.

“I was sore obviously and you can see the scar right away, but even though I was so sore and tender, you just feel like this fog has been lifted off you. You don’t realise how bad you felt until you don’t feel that way. You just get accustomed to it,” he said.

“Having a body that wasn’t running at 100pc has just been my life for so long. Pretty much half my life, my entire adult life I’ve been living with this.”

Jenny and her husband Scotty setup the Galway institution Scotty’s Diner in 1991 and have served over “two million burgers in 30 years”.

Andrew and his girlfriend Beth also setup a bakery, called the Imperfect Bakery, in Salthill during the first Covid lockdown. He said the “outpouring of support” that the family have received from all their customers has been “amazing”.

“There was an outpouring of support from the Scotty’s customers and our own customers as well. It was really nice to see that people really do care and do want to see you get better and get back to doing what you want,” he added.

Some 14 years since his initial diagnosis, Andrew said it feels like a happy ending and one that was made possible by his mother’s “beautiful” and “selfless act”.

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