Letterkenny mum Fiona Black shares how she got the gift of life this year from her husband Allister.

Allistair and Fiona Black

Organ donation has been a huge part of the lives of Fiona Black (nee Kelly) and her family. Out of 18 siblings, six of them have had kidney transplants, as well as their late mother Bridget.

Just this year, Fiona and her brother John were given a new lease of life thanks to the kidney transplants they have undergone within a couple of weeks of one another. They are sharing their story to raise awareness for Organ Donor Awareness Week (1-8 April) and to acknowledge the selflessness of families of deceased donors including five families who have helped their family.

Fiona Black (nee Kelly), a mother of four children, from Letterkenny, Donegal and her loving husband Allister underwent a living donor kidney transplant in January this year. Her brother, John Kelly, (a father of one) who also lives in Letterkenny, underwent his transplant in December 2016.

John had been undergoing hospital dialysis treatment for over five and a half years until a deceased donor kidney came along. Fiona’s time on dialysis was much shorter as for just four months she underwent a home dialysis treatment for eight hours at a time until Allister’s kidney donation to her.

The gift of life

Fiona explained, “Organ donation is hugely important particularly to my family. In total seven members of my family have had kidney transplants including my late mother, four sisters and one brother. Two of the transplants were from living donors including mine from my husband Allister and one of my sisters, Angela, underwent a living donor transplant in the US.

“Two other brothers and two sisters in my family, have the same unusual hereditary kidney condition called Tubulo Nephritis.  The oldest member of the family progressed to dialysis treatment last July and undergoes nightly treatment. The three others are likely to progress to dialysis treatment and require transplants as their kidney function is declining. Each one of us who were affected only began to experience kidney failure when we were in their late 30s.”

“Our late mother Bridget went into kidney failure after all of us were born. She passed away in 1997 seventeen years after a kidney transplant which she received from a deceased donor.  My father Packie passed away 10 months after her death.

“My kidney transplant sister Teresa passed away two years ago, and like my father she died from cancer. Way back in the times when my mother was receiving dialysis she would have to travel to Dublin for her treatment. Thankfully we have a local dialysis centre in Letterkenny now.”

‘I fell more alive’

“I wasn’t aware how sick I was as now I have so much more energy than before, feel more alive and can think more clearly. The transplant was a success for me and my husband Allister and both of us are fully recovered now. We can look forward to a happy future with our four children.”

“I have always told my family that when I die that my express wish is that my organs can be donated if they are suitable. I have always carried a donor card and many of my extended family do also. I would encourage people to talk about organ donation and let their next of kin know their wishes.”

Better quality of life

Speaking about his recent transplant, John said, “my transplant has made a huge difference to my quality of life. I was very tired before but now I have much more energy. It thanks to a donor stranger that I have this new lease of life.”

Last year Beaumont Hospital carried out 172 kidney transplants including a record 50 from living donors

There are over 4,450 people in Ireland being treated for kidney failure, with 2,075 (47%) undergoing dialysis treatment and, thanks to the gift of organ donation, 2379 (53%) people are enjoying extended life from a kidney transplant.

Organ Donor Awareness Week

Organ Donor Awareness Week takes place from 1-8 April. The Irish Kidney Association is the national organisation charged with the promotion and distribution of the organ donor card in Ireland, on behalf of Organ Donation Transplant Ireland. 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.

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association  LoCall 1890 543639 or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050. Visit website www.ika.ie      You can now download the IKA’s new digital donor card by visiting www.donor.ie on your smartphone.

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