Patrick Eustace and Aine Doherty look back on their wedding day with fond memories and gratitude to the donor who gave Patrick a life-saving kidney transplant.
Patrick Eustace, 31, married Letterkenny woman Aine Doherty in a beautiful wedding in Dubrovnik in Croatia last July. This day was a celebration of love and life as the couple and their 90 guests paid a special thought to organ donors who, with the generosity of their families, gave Patrick and two guests the precious gift of life.
Clare native Patrick received a life-saving kidney transplant at 12 years of age. At the beginning of their wedding celebration, the couple lit three candles – one for Patrick, one for Aine and one memory flame as a special tribute to the family of Patrick’s donor.
This was even more poignant as Aine’s father’s cousin from Donegal and her uncle-in-law on her mother’s side from Dublin were both transplant recipients and both present at the ceremony.
Aine told Donegal Woman why the day was a beautiful celebration of life: “Our wedding day was filled with special moments that remembered organ donors and their families, for example, Patrick lit a memory candle for his donor during the mass and later he paid a very special and emotional tribute during his wedding speech. This was especially moving and I know that the emotion was felt among all the guests.
“In fact, one guest later gave a donation to the Irish Kidney Association as a wedding gift to us which we loved, it was very thoughtful,” she said.
Patrick was born with Kidney Dysplasia, which meant that his kidneys were not fully formed when he was born. He spent much of his childhood attending hospital appointments and his kidney problems escalated over the years until he was put on dialysis on his 12th birthday. He got the gift of life when he was called for a kidney transplant six months later.
“When I was a kid I didn’t fully realise the ramifications of being on dialysis and being sick. I knew nothing else. Now that I’m older I appreciate a lot more the decision of the family that donated their deceased loved one’s organ.”
“A new organ gives a person a new lease of life, a renewed hope. Your energy levels increase, your appetite increases, you are untethered from a machine and you’re able to live your life,” Patrick told Donegal Woman.
Patrick was fortunate that his transplant was a success. His body reacted well to the new organ and he was able to return to school after two months. He was able to progress with education, go to college and thrive in his professional career.
Aine said: “We have been so lucky, Patrick has been healthy as long as I’ve known him. People don’t realise he is a transplant recipient and this shows how life changing organ donation can be, that he can lead a normal life.
“All our family and friends know how important the topic of organ donation is, I think it’s so important that we have these conversations to raise awareness about it and that families are aware of what their loved ones wishes are,” she said.
Now, Patrick works as a Project Manager with Cisco in Galway, where he now lives with Aine. He leads a healthy life and attends a check-up appointment in Galway every three months. He will never know who his kidney donor was, but he always maintains a connection with their family.
“Every year I send mass bouquets to my donor family around the time of my transplant to let them know that they are in my thoughts.
“That family would have lost a loved one at that time in an unfortunate circumstance. They made a decision at a very tough time for them,” Patrick said.
Patrick pens a letter to the family each year, and is planning to write another since his wedding. In a one-way conversation, the letters are passed on to the family via the transplant coordinators’ office so that both the recipient and donor family remain anonymous.
Patrick tries to give back to the Organ Donor Awareness campaign as much as he can, while his mother Peggy does a lot of work with the Clare branch of the IKA. Aine joins Patrick to help out with fundraising, collections and promotion in Ennis at this time of year.
Aine said: “Before I met Patrick, I honestly wouldn’t have known or thought much about organ donation. I now realise how many people are impacted by it – there are hundreds of people on transplant waiting lists, hoping that their lives might be saved or improved by the most precious gift.”
There are approximately 600 people in Ireland awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants.
Patrick and Aine are encouraging people this week to have the conversation with their families about organ donation so they would know what their loved ones’ wishes would be in the event of their untimely death.
The week is also used to increase support for the Irish Kidney Association by encouraging people to buy a ‘forget-me-not’ flower and other merchandise which will be available from volunteers around the country who will also be distributing organ donor cards.
The annual life-saving awareness campaign aims to highlight the ongoing and ever increasing demand for organ transplantation. Its key message is that families need to discuss organ donation and keep the reminders of their willingness to donate visible by carrying the organ donor card, downloading the Digital Donor Card and permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s license.
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 etc. For more information, visit www.ika.ie