Going big in aid of organ donor week

Amy Reidy

Hundreds in the greater Kerry area touched by the modern medical miracle of organ donation are calling on the general public to remain mindful of the vital gift it represents as Organ Donation week gets underway.

And one young woman from these parts is going further than most as she prepares to take on the mother of all physical endurance challenges in thanks for the kidney transplant operation that transformed her father's life.

Ballydesmond woman Eilish Leader is tackling the gruelling challenge of swimming the English Chanel to raise funds for the Irish Kidney Association and the Marymount Hospice in Cork. Eilish, whose father underwent a life changing kidney transplant last year with the help of his donor sister, Maura, plans to swim the English Channel in a four-person relay team on Saturday, July 9 next.

The swimmers met through an initiative by RED FM and go by the name 'Myrtle Turtles', setting up a Facebook page to raise awareness and encourage donations to the selected charities.

The 30-year-old public health nurse hopes to raise awareness about the significance of organ donation. She recalls her father, an engineer with the ESB, being unwell for most of her childhood and being particularly sick while she, the eldest of four children, was studying for her Junior Cert.

"The kidney transplant has made a huge difference to his quality of life as he is no longer tied to dialysis treatment which he was undergoing for almost 3 years," said Eilish.

"There are many people in organ failure who are entirely dependent on the goodwill of the public to donate. Organ donation transforms the lives of the transplant recipients as well as their family members", she added.

A number of Kerry people this week joined with Irish Kidney Association ambassador and RTÉ News journalist Vivienne Traynor as they launched the campaign this week.

One Listowel man knows exactly the transformation the surgery can spark - 34-year-old garda Alan Gleeson. Alan underwent a kidney transplant when he was 16, emerging from illness to play his beloved sports (and even contest the Transplant Games) and ultimately gain entry to the Gardaí. Unfortunately, his kidney function started to decline in 2014 forcing him back into dialysis but with the support of girlfriend Mairín, parents Sean and Julie and family he is as positive as ever. Alan delivered one of the keynote presentations at the national launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week in Dublin on Tuesday before Health Minister Leo Varadkar among others.