The Irish Kidney Association’s Organ Donor Awareness Week runs until Saturday April 7th. Volunteers are out and about across Waterford this week in an attempt to raise vital funds.
ORGAN Donor Awareness Week is being marked throughout the country this week.
The annual campaign by the Irish Kidney Association strives to raise awareness about the ongoing and ever-increasing demand for organ transplantation.
There are approximately 550 people in Ireland 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 Irish Kidney Association’s key message as part of Organ Donor Awareness Week is that families need to talk to each other and keep the reminders of their willingness to donate visible by carrying an organ donor card and permitting ‘Code 115’ to be included on their driver’s license.
Maria Ryan from the Dunmore Road in Waterford is one woman who knows of the huge benefits of organ donation.
Aged 27, she began feeling unwell and was told she was experiencing renal failure.
She was sent to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and, for the following 15 months, she underwent peritoneal dialysis at home four times a day.
Aged 31, she eventually received a call which changed her life and she was given a kidney transplant.
That transplant lasted 20 years and enabled Maria to live as normal a life as possible.
She even gave birth to her fourth child six years after being transplanted.
However, her second transplant took longer to obtain and Maria underwent haemodialysis for seven years while waiting.
This regime impacted on her life and placed restrictions on what she could and couldn’t do, particularly in relation to holidays and day trips.
“Two years passed, three, four, five, six…I thought it would never happen,” she explained.
However, at 10.30am on September 19th last, Maria received the call which she was waiting for and was told to make her way to Beaumont Hospital immediately.
“I was transplanted that night. I couldn’t believe I was having it done, it was like a dream,” she said.
“I wasn’t frightened or nervous. When you get the call, adrenaline kicks in.”
Maria admits that the recovery process was tough but says it was all worth it.
Although she still has some minor issues, Maria feels wonderful both physically and psychologically.
For Organ Donor Awareness Week, she is keen to highlight the importance of becoming an organ donor.
“People are reluctant to talk about it so there is a need for education. I was in a situation where I knew nothing about renal failure,” she said.
“There are so many people out there waiting for organs. If even one extra person carried an organ donor card it would make such a difference.”
Maria says she wouldn’t be in the position she’s in today if somebody hadn’t made the decision to become an organ donor.
“It was a gift which they gave me,” she said.
Due to confidentiality issues, Maria will never find out who her donor was.
“But I have visions in my mind of who gave me the kidney,” she explained.
Chairman of the Waterford Irish Kidney Association branch Ray Halligan says the simple message of Organ Donor Awareness Week is that organ donation saves lives.
In 1995, he was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease.
“I was told at the time that there wouldn’t be a cure for it and I would have to try to manage it as best I could,” he explained.
“I was doing quite well but in the latter stages of 2007, my kidney function began to deteriorate and I had to go on dialysis three times a week for four hour sessions. It’s a tough regime but it’s a lifesaving regime.”
He added: “You have to be positive and look at the glass as being half full. Dialysis is tough, but you are being given another chance.”