WATERFORD’S Irish Kidney Association branch is preparing for this year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week which takes place from Saturday April 2nd – Saturday April 9th.
The Irish Kidney Association was formed in 1978 to raise awareness of organ donation and to encourage people to consider becoming an organ donor.
“We encourage people to become organ donors and to be organ donor aware all year round. Organ Donor Awareness Week is held at this time each year and it’s the main platform through which we make people aware of the work of the Irish Kidney Association,” said Ray Halligan who is chair of the Waterford IKA branch and also sits on the IKA National Executive.
There are around 36 members in the local branch, all of whom have direct or indirect experience of kidney transplant.
A number of different fundraising events take place throughout the year in Waterford including an annual 10K walk between Portlaw and Carrick-on-Suir, an annual field day in Newtown, Kilmacthomas and various other events.
IKA volunteers will be out and about in locations across Waterford city and county, including local supermarkets, from April 2nd to 9th selling forget-me-not flowers, brooches, pens etc.
Thankfully, Ray says that the recent controversies involving some charities have not adversely impacted on the IKA.
“We were a bit concerned but I think people know what we’re about. They know the hard work that’s put in,” he said.
“We’ll be out and about on a completely voluntary basis. We do it to give something back. People in Waterford are very, very generous. Eighty per cent of our funding comes from the generosity of the general public and all money raised locally will stay locally.”
Among the services which the IKA provides are financial support, counselling, dialysis holiday co-ordination, sports and fitness programmes, advocacy, patient guides, a quarterly magazine, and accommodation in a 13 bed support centre on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital.
A large amount of the money raised in Waterford will go towards the upkeep and refurbishment of holiday homes in Tramore which are provided for transplant patients and their families.
This process is co-ordinated by Vera Frisby and is an important outlet for patients who come to Tramore from all over Ireland.
This year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week patron is RTÉ News Anchor and Courts Correspondent Vivienne Traynor who witnessed first-hand the whole process of organ donation and transplantation from a deceased donor for her nephew Martin (now age 35) in November 2014.
This was a very different experience from five years previously when she was a living kidney donor to him.
Following the first transplant which they underwent in the UK, Martin became a father for the first time to Ted (now 3).
The circle of life continued after Martin’s second transplant at Beaumont Hospital and he and his partner Mary have since become parents for the second time with a baby sister Daisy (now 10 months) for Ted.
There are approximately 700 people in Ireland awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants.
Thanks to the gift of organ donation over 3,000 people in Ireland are enjoying an extended life.
In 2015, 266 organs were transplanted – 233 were as a result of the generosity of the families of 81 deceased donors and the remaining 33 were from living donors.
St. Vincent’s Hospital conducted 61 liver transplants in 2015; the Mater Hospital conducted a record 36 lung transplants as well as 16 heart transplants in 2015; and Beaumont Hospital carried out 153 kidney transplants including 33 from living donors.
“People are becoming more aware but it’s still something you have to be very sensitive about,” said Ray.
He has welcomed the decision to allow living donors to claim up to €6,000 in lost earnings.
“If you become a donor and you’re incapacitated, which you will be for a considerable time, you can be reimbursed for your hospital stay and lost earnings. That can go up to €12,000 depending on longevity,” he explained.
“Up to a few years ago, if you went forward and volunteered to be a donor, you couldn’t claim social welfare because you were taking yourself out of the workplace.”
Ray is encouraging people to consider becoming an organ donor and to donate to this year’s Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign.
In fact, it’s never been easier to become an organ donor or to support the work of the IKA.
You can text “kidney” to 50300 and €2 will be donated from your mobile phone account to the IKA.
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association (LoCall 1890 543639) or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050.
It is now possible to store an organ donor card known as the ‘ECard’ on Smart mobile phones.
Search for ‘Donor ECard’ at the iPhone Store or Android Market Place.
You can also show a willingness to donate by permitting Code 115 to be included on your driver’s licence.
For more information on this year’s IKA Organ Donor Awareness Week call Ray Halligan on 086-8375563 or visit www.ika.ie.