There are over 600 people in Ireland awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants. Worryingly, the number of organ donors in Ireland dropped by a quarter last year, making 2014 one of the worst in recent years for organ donations. Preliminary figures from the Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) shows that there were 112 kidney transplants from deceased donors in 2014 compared with 147 in 2013. The total number of organ transplants was 251 in 2014 compared with 294 in the previous year. Approximately 1,800 people are on dialysis.
Mary Egan (38) living in Ballinascarthy, a little village near Clonakilty in West Cork, is one of them. After suffering with kidney problems for years, the mother of three young children was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2012, the same week she found out that she was pregnant with her third child. She talks to Mary O’Brien about life on dialysis and her hope for a future transplant.
In January 2014, Mary’s condition became life threatening; both her kidneys failed and she had to go on emergency dialysis. She is now on the live and deceased kidney transplant list.
Today, family life in the Egan household revolves around Mary’s dialysis machine, which since last October, she is fortunate to have in her own home. For four hours, four days a week, Mary hooks the line in her chest up to the machine for a session of haemodialysis, which removes toxins and excess water and cleans her blood.
“When something like this affects you, you appreciate life so much more,” says Mary. “You realise what you have to be grateful for…and it’s the simple things like being at home and spending time with my husband Tadhg and the kids and having the support of family and friends.”
Éabha (9), Leah (6) and Ben (2) chat to their mum about their day, do their homework or simply sit in companionable silence while Mary is on the dialysis machine. “I think it’s made us stronger as a family,” says Mary. “And my hope is that my children will be better and more empathic people in the future from going through this experience with me.”
Chronic Kidney Disease is a major life change that can cause a great deal of stress. Fatigue, loss of appetite, insomnia and dietary restrictions (high potassium and high phosphate foods have to be avoided and there is a daily fluid quota) is all a part of daily life. “I’m quite a positive person so the hope of getting a transplant and having to be there for my kids keeps me going,” says Mary. “I’m on call 24/7 and I have my bag packed.”
The focus of Organ Donor Awareness Week (March 28 – April 4, 2015) is to raise awareness about the ongoing and ever increasing demand for transplantation, which relies entirely on the public for organ donation.
“I’ve always been a believer in organ donation but it’s not until it comes to your own door that you really sit down and talk about it. And it is something you need to discuss with your family, as at the end of the day, whether you carry an organ donation card or not, it’s your next of kin that have the final say,” explains Mary.
Families need to talk amongst themselves and keep the reminders of their willingness to donate visible by carrying the organ donor card, downloading the Smartphone App 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 (March 28 – April 4, 2015), the Association’s volunteers will be out on the streets, and in shopping centres throughout the country, selling ‘forget-me-not-flower’ emblems, brooches, 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.
The Irish Kidney Association charitable activities include the provision of a 13 double bedroom free accommodation facility for patients and their families in the grounds of Beaumont Hospital and holiday centres located in Tramore and Kerry, together with patient advocacy, advice, financial aid and rehabilitative, health promotion and the provision of kidney patient information and education.
“I’m hopeful,” says Mary “I’m also very aware that there will be an element of sadness too when I get that call, as our family’s gain will be another family’s loss. There really is no greater gift.”
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.