It was a case of third time lucky when Athlone native, Shane Hunter, afforded the ultimate pre-wedding gift to his ailing fiancée, a soon to be qualified art teacher, Briona Reynolds, when he donated a kidney to her in recent times.
The couple are sharing their good news to offer hope to the hundreds of other families with loved ones in organ failure on transplant waiting lists as the kidney transplant programme has resumed at Beaumont Hospital following its suspension in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five years ago when Briona discovered she had kidney disease, she could never have known that Shane, whom she met in 2009 after her sister’s introduction, would ultimately give her the gift of life.
Briona no longer has to undergo three times weekly haemodialysis treatment at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore. The couple can now look forward to a bright future together as they are now recovering following their successful living donor transplant operations at the home they share in Briona’s native Tubber.
They are now turning their attention to planning for their wedding in July 2021 at the nearby Mount Druid as Shane returns to his employment at Tullamore Garda Station.
Beaumont Hospital had already suspended transplant operations before the country went into lock down on March 27 including Briona and Shane’s operations, scheduled to take place on March 23. This would be their second disappointment as a previous date for transplant, February 3, had also been cancelled due to safety concerns as a result of Shane’s blood results showing irregularities at the time.
By February, Briona’s kidney function had almost fully declined and she then had no option but to commence haemodialysis treatment in order to keep her alive. Briona’s mother, Gina Reynolds, was also found to be a suitable living kidney donor match but Shane was determined that he should be the one to proceed.
Just a week before the transplant operation took place, Briona, completed her thesis for a Master’s in Education. Fulfilling her dream to become a secondary school art teacher is now edging closer.
Shane noted his distress as he watched Briona adapt to her kidney failure situation and made the decision to find out if his kidney was a suitable match for donation.
“For the last number of years I’ve seen Briona struggle with the complications of having kidney failure and so when I was given the opportunity to get tested for kidney donation I was eager to help but also nervous that I might not be a match.
“Thankfully, here we are less than two weeks on from transplant and both of us are doing great and recovering well. The successful transplant allows us to plan ahead and focus on what’s coming, like our wedding next year.
“Throughout the whole process leading up to and at the time of our surgeries including the disappointment around our two previous postponed surgeries we always felt safe under the care of Beaumont Hospital. The confidence and support experienced was incredible and we were very lucky to have had an excellent team looking after us.
“Right now, we’re just looking forward to getting back to a stage where we can go back to work, go on holidays and just get back to normal living. Now my concern is what to get Briona for her birthday, it’s hard to top a kidney,” Shane commented.
Acknowledgin the health challenges of the previous year, Briona stated that the reality of Shane’s kidney donation is “still sinking in.”
“Since being diagnosed five years ago we watched as my kidney function decreased knowing there was nothing we could do other than trying to delay the inevitable through medication and lifestyle and dietary changes, but as my kidney function continued to decline to a point where my treatment options were reduced to commencing hospital dialysis treatment or the hope of getting a kidney transplant.
“I was so grateful when both Shane and my mother went forward to be tested to be living donors knowing that not everyone gets this opportunity and many are reliant on the uncertainty of a deceased donor kidney becoming available. Both our families were hopeful the living donor process would work out but at the same time concerned for Shane and my mother.
“The past ten months have probably been the most challenging, waiting for test results, watching my health decrease further and trying to complete my thesis while on dialysis, but after all the stress and disappointment when Shane and I finally checked into Beaumont Hospital the evening before our operations, it all felt worth it and that everything was going to work out.
“ I honestly don’t think it has fully sunk in yet that Shane has donated his kidney to me and I’ll never know how to fully thank him but I am so grateful that we can finally move ahead with our lives. I’d like to thank Shane’s parents, Norman and Sharon Hunter, who now live in Dysart, County Roscommon and my parents, Gina and Frank Reynolds for their loving support throughout my health journey,” Briona enthused.