To coincide with Organ Donor Awareness Week (May 20-27), two Waterford men’s inspirational stories underline the life-saving importance of kidney transplants
Michael Mitchell from Rathgormack is living proof that organ donation gives recipients a second chance – and that the quality of life of those who give so selflessly need not be affected.
In 2007, at the age of 15, Michael was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. “Although this was life changing, under the brilliant care of Dr Frank Walker and Dr Elizabeth Abernethy of UHW, I was able to lead a full and enjoyable life for the following 13 years, doing everything I wanted to do.”
However, in August 2020 the condition could no longer be managed with medication and Michael had to start dialysis. This involved heading to the Dialysis Unit twice a week for five hours each time at University Hospital Waterford.
“It is important for me to acknowledge the care I got from the dialysis unit and the support from family, friends and work while on dialysis,” he says.
“During this time, I was added to the transplant list with the option of exploring a living donation. My mam went forward to be tested but, in the final stages, unfortunately this did not work out. After hearing this, my aunt Laurena volunteered to be tested and thankfully came back as a match.
“On 31 January 2022 I received a successful living kidney transplant from Laurena. This was and everyday continues to be an amazing act of generosity and kindness on her part. Under the wonderful care of the transplant team, we both made great recoveries. Now, 18 months on, things are working out well.”
This Sunday, 28 May at 10.30am in Rathgormack Hiking Centre, Michael is holding a coffee morning in aid of the Waterford Branch of the Irish Kidney Association and the Dialysis Unit in UHW.
Bob Murphy from Mahonbridge has undergone three kidney transplants. He would like to honour the memory of his late father Séan, who passed away last year, and was a long-time advocate for organ donation and supporter of the Irish Kidney Association. Sean donated a kidney to Bob in 1984 and twenty years later Sean underwent a kidney transplant himself.
In 1984, Bob received his first transplant from his kidney donor father Sean. At the time it was not known that four members of the family, including Sean, had a hereditary kidney condition known as MPGN (Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis), a particularly unusual type unique to the Murphy family.
Just over thirty years later, the same transplant surgeon, David Hickey, who conducted Bob and Sean’s operation, performed the living donor kidney transplant between Bob and his youngest brother Mahon. The late Sean received a kidney transplant twenty years after he himself donated a kidney to his son Bob, who underwent his second kidney transplant, thanks to a deceased kidney donor, in 1997.
Bob endured years of poor health since he was a young child as a result of his kidney condition. He was one of the first children in Ireland to receive dialysis treatment at Crumlin Hospital and suffered a stroke at a young age and later two heart attacks.
Bob’s first heart attack happened in July 2014, just a week before he and his brother Mahon were scheduled to undergo a living donor kidney transplant at Beaumont Hospital. The operation had to be postponed until Bob was well enough to undergo more surgery for his third transplant operation.
His donor brother, Mahon, completed his Phd in History two days before the successful brother-to-brother living donor kidney transplant went ahead on 3rd November 2014.
Carry a card
With 250 transplants performed last year, an “astounding” 81 in the first quarter of 2023 represents “the best start to a year that our organ donation and transplantation system has ever had,” says Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
This year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign is built around the theme ‘Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones in Doubt!’ (#LeaveNoDoubt). “Sharing your wishes when you are in good health makes it a less stressful decision for your family in the event of them being approached about you being a potential organ donor,” says Frances Moynihan, Waterford IKA Branch Secretary (email@example.com).
Pictured are: Comeragh IKA champions: Bob Murphy and Michael Mitchell
You can give your consent by carrying an organ donor card or have it noted on your driving licence. To request a card, email firstname.lastname@example.org, freetext DONOR to 50050, or lo call 1890 543639.