Organ Donor Awareness Week takes place from March 31 to April 7 and three County Wexford people have been recounting their own stories of dialysis and the donor process.
The Irish Kidney Association is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Approximately 550 people in Ireland are awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants - thanks to the gift of organ donation almost 3,500 transplanted people in Ireland are enjoying extended life.
The focus of Organ Donor Awareness Week is to raise awareness about the ongoing and ever-increasing demand for organ transplantation which relies on the public for organ donation. Its key message is that families need to talk to each other 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.
The organ donor card has developed from what started out as the kidney donor card in the same year our organisation was established in 1978.
Organ Donor Awareness Week also serves as a fundraising exercise for the Irish Kidney Association. Throughout the week, the Association's volunteers will be out on the streets, and in shopping centres throughout the country, distributing organ donor cards while 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.
Free information fact files, which accompany organ donor cards, are obtainable from the Irish Kidney Association and are available nationwide from pharmacies, GP surgeries and Citizen Information Offices. Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association tel. 01 6205306 or free text the word DONOR to 50050 or visit www.ika.ie/card/.
Richie McAuley from The Ballagh is a kidney transplant recipient who underwent a kidney transplant in February 2016 following four-and-a-half years of dialysis treatment. Grateful to his deceased donor, Richie (35) said that, in his case, his donor didn't just save a life but also created one.
'My wife Fiona became pregnant with our first child after my transplant and we now have a happy healthy seven-month-old daughter, Amelia. I can now enjoy a life away from dialysis with an unrestricted diet and a lot more energy, and have more time to spend with my wife and daughter.'
Andrew Kehoe, from Ballindaggin, has been on dialysis for two and a half years, having recovered from prostate cancer. The 62-year-old retired plasterer was diagnosed seven years ago but it was also found, while undergoing radiation therapy at Whitfield, that he had prostate cancer. Thereafter, his wife drive him to four-hour dialysis treatments in Waterford three days a week, from which he didn't get home until 10 p.m. His radiotherapy worked but he had to be clear of cancer for two years before being allowed to go on the transplant waiting list.
The father of four adult children recently started attending dialysis treatment in the new centre in Wexford and he had high praise for the staff there: 'The staff are second to none under the expert management of Debbie MacDonald.' He also praised the staff of the dialysis centre in Waterford Regional Hospital under the guidance of Brenda Ronan.
He says that the biggest drawback his kidney failure brings is the extreme tiredness which he experiences all of the time, and being tied to dialysis three times a week. He said a transplant would completely transform his life and he would be extremely grateful to the selfless donor and their family.
Tommy Parker, a dairy farmer from Castlebridge, received a kidney transplant in early January 2018 having been on dialysis prior to that. One of six brothers, Tommy's younger brother Colm was intending to give a living donation but a deceased donor transplant came along before that. Another brother was also deemed to be a suitable kidney match. Colm's wife's father Peter Shorthall (who had been receiving dialysis for six years) attended the same dialysis shifts as Tommy at Waterford Regional Hospital.
The father of two young children (age 10 and 12) was feeling very ill in 2014 and was diagnosed with IGA nephropathy and at the time his kidney function had reduced to 20%. He managed to stave off dialysis treatment for three years and then had to attend Waterford Regional Hospital for his four-hour dialysis treatment, three days a week. He says that this really consumed his time and he had to pay other people to run the farm in the time he was away which, with travel, took about six to seven hours.
The condition left him very tired all of the time His recovery after transplant took about eight weeks and he got cover for the farm during this time.
Tommy said, after a few minor setbacks following the transplant he is now doing very well, pointing out that thanks to a deceased donor he is back to work and has renewed energy and a new lease of life.