"His quality of life has returned."

Taking care of kidney patients was part of renal nurse Aileen Walsh’s daily routine; but when her previously very healthy father Seamus was diagnosed with end stage kidney failure, she took that care one step further by donating one of her kidneys to him.

Aileen Walsh (37), the mother of two boys, aged 9 and 10, from Buncrana, and her father Seamus (66), an accountant, underwent their living donor kidney transplant on 31st July 2017.

Aileen with her dad Seamus

Now they have bounced back since the operations, they want to share their story in support of the Irish Kidney Association’s Organ Donor Awareness Week 2018 which takes place from 31st March until 7th April.

Aileen explained: “In the months leading up to Christmas 2015, my father had been feeling very unwell and on 23rd December 2015 he was diagnosed with stage 5 renal failure and was transferred to University Hospital Galway for treatment.

“He was told that his best option was a kidney transplant, if he could get a match. Over the following months there followed several return visits to Galway to the University Hospital, Galway Clinic and Bon Secures Hospitals for work-ups.

“As luck would have it, he got three offers of a kidney from my mother Anne, myself and my brother David. As David was based in Sydney, Australia, it was decided that both Anne and myself would be tested initially as potential donors.

“I turned out to be the almost perfect match, with 5 out of 6 markers and no antibodies.”

Thankfully the procedure went perfectly, with Seamus finding a new lease of life.

“I completed my full work up shortly afterwards and the transplant took place at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin on 31st July 2017. The transplant has been a huge success to date and the transplant kidney is now functioning very well.

“Both my mother and David who had returned from Australia to offer support for the operation stayed at the Irish Kidney Association’s Renal Support Unit in the grounds of Beaumont Hospital.

“My family used this wonderful facility (Renal Support Centre) for our visits to Beaumont Hospital prior to and after transplant until my father’s care was transferred back to Letterkenny University Hospital after six weeks. After the transplant operation I was discharged home after five days and have made a full recovery.

“My father Seamus is easing his way back into work and I am now practicing as a midwife in Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry.”

“The kidney transplant was text book perfect. The transplant kidney started working straight away in my father because we were such a good match.

“His quality of life has returned.

“I feel privileged to have been able to donate to him and see first-hand how life changing organ donation is, and to witness someone I love to get their life back and I have mine back for myself.

“I feel blessed as a living donor that I can witness the benefits of organ donation as so many families who have donated a deceased loved one’s organs don’t get to see the profound legacy that their decision to donate brings.

“There are hundreds of families waiting for organs and not just kidneys but other organs also, and are entirely dependent on deceased organ donors to save them.”

Organ Donor Awareness Week 2018 will take place from 31st March until 7th April.

The campaign is organised by the Irish Kidney Association and supported by Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI).

Broadcaster Claire Byrne has taken up the voluntary role of ambassador for organ donor awareness 2018 and she features on posters distributed nationwide and a national radio advertising campaign encouraging families to discuss organ donation.

2017 was a record year for organ transplantation for Ireland with a total of 327 organs being transplanted into 321 patients including a total of 23 children/paediatric transplants.

It is thanks to the gift of organ donation that almost 3,500 transplanted people in Ireland are enjoying extended life.

At the end of 2017, there were 524 people active on the various transplant waiting pools for heart, liver, kidney, lung and pancreas.

Claire Byrne, Clíona Marley with her 3 children representing the Irish Heart and Lung Transplant Association and Valerie Brady, National Honorary Secretary, Irish Kidney Association.

Mr. Mark Murphy, the Chief Executive of the Irish Kidney Association said: “Advancements in medicine, combined with our hospitals successful transplanting teams and the generosity of families of deceased and living donors has led to this very positive outcome.

“We hope that this can give hope to the people in transplant waiting pools and the many more people in organ failure hoping to be listed for a lifesaving transplant”.

“For the first time in 39 years, transplantation is keeping up with dialysis, with 2,074 people on dialysis, this is one less person on dialysis than in the previous year 2016,” he added.

The key message of Organ Donor Awareness Week is that families need to talk to each other about organ donation and keep the reminders of their willingness to donate visible by carrying the organ donor card and permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s license.

Organ Donor Awareness Week also serves as a fundraising exercise for the Irish Kidney Association.

Throughout the Week (31st March – 7th April 2018), the Association’s volunteers will be out on the streets, and in shopping centres throughout the country, distributing organ donor cards while selling ‘forget-me-not-flower’ emblems, brooches, lapel pins, pens and shopping trolley discs.

All proceeds will go towards the Irish Kidney Association’s aid for patients on dialysis and those patients fortunate enough to have received a kidney transplant.

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.

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association tel. 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also find them on their website www.ika.ie/card