Three months after setting off from the ‘Circle of Life’ memorial garden in Salthill on an incredible 2500km walk around the Irish coast raising funds and awareness for the Irish Heart and Lung Transplant Association (IHLTA ), this weekend foster carer and heart transplant recipient Ron Cummins successfully made it back to the special spot where his walk started.
In July 1996, at just 38 years-old, Ron Cummins, then working as a chef in Dublin, was given a fifty-fifty chance of living another six months unless he had a heart transplant. Thankfully, he made it onto the transplant list and in September 1997, he received a new heart. He comments: “I know I’m lucky; I was given a gift, a second chance at life. However not everyone is – in Ireland over a third of patients waiting for a transplant die while on the waiting list. This could be so different if only there was more awareness of organ donation.”
Grateful for having been given a new lease of life as the result of the new heart he received, this summer, in between foster care placements and accompanied by wife and fellow foster carer Carol, Ron has made it his mission to speak to as many people as possible about the importance of organ donation.
With the goal of raising awareness, the couple chose not to hire a camper van, instead opting to rely on the kindness of friends, family, fellow foster carers and total strangers for places to stay for the night, keeping a tent in the boot of the car as ‘back-up’.
As the couple have made their way around the country, speaking to hundreds of individuals and attracting the attention of local newspapers and radio stations, they have raised an enormous amount of awareness, recruited scores of donors and gathered more than €1000 of donations for the IHLTA.
“It’s been quite an adventure – one that definitely fits into the ‘once in a lifetime’ category,” he said. “We’ve had some fascinating conversations with the people we’ve met. We’ve also been reminded just how beautiful a country Ireland is and just how warm and welcoming the people are. From Galley Head in Cork to walks along the Kerry coast, we’ve walked through some beautiful landscapes and shared stories with some kind, generous, interesting people.
“We’ve been blown away by the generous support we’ve received – from our fostering agency Fostering First Ireland providing us with a support car to the friends old and new that have welcomed us into their homes or sponsored us rooms in hotels or B&Bs. Not to mention all of those that have pledged to carry donor cards, donated to the IHLTA, offered words of support or joined us for various 5km stretches.
“The well wishes and encouragement we’ve received from friends and family as well as from total strangers have really helped keep us going. There have been tough days as well as wonderful ones, however when I’ve been missing home, soaked to the skin, or moaning about my knees hurting or the pain in my hips, I just have to think of someone in hospital, waiting, not knowing if they are going to be the one who will die.”
To find out more about Ron’s story, visit the page on the FFI website. To make a donation to support the work of the IHLTA visit Ron’s fundraising page.