When Eoin Madden woke up last Christmas morning he realised he had been given the best present ever.
“I’d been given the gift of life,” says the software programmer from Corofin who had just received a new kidney.
It was his second transplant in seven years and represented a new lease of life for the 30-year-old who works with ICE in Ballybrit.
His kidney problems began when he was 18 years old and studying for his Leaving Certificate.
“I was very, very tired all the time. My mother brought me to the local GP and he diagnosed something wrong with my kidneys. I went to a kidney consultant in Merlin Park Hospital and he said I had nephritis [inflammation of the kidney].
“Usually with this it wouldn’t go against you until you are in your 40s. But within a couple of years I was going downhill. The tiredness was not too bad at that stage, it was only sporadic.”
Eoin was in third year at the University of Limerick when his condition deteriorated rapidly. He had gone on a work experience programme to Germany when his kidney failed.
“It happened quite suddenly. I had been going to my doctor weekly for blood tests before this and I knew that things were not great. Then [while I was away] the blood test showed my kidney was not working. I had to start dialysis that day.”
He stayed in Germany for three months having dialysis three times a week for four hours at a time. When he returned to Limerick he continued with his treatment.
He received a transplant in March 2001 at Beaumont Hospital after a year on a waiting list.
“Normally the wait is about three years, I was very lucky. It is a worrying time, trying to get on the list and proving you are healthy enough to be on it. The longer you wait the unhealthier you get.”
Eoin, who is one of six sons and who now lives in Athenry, was “extremely” worried about the four-hour operation. He says the Irish Kidney Assocation was a “ big help” providing his family with support and accommodation close to the hospital.
“I was in hospital for 10 days. Everything went fine and I was in very good health for five to six years. Then, things went downhill. The nephritis came back this time in the transplanted kidney. It was very upsetting. My symptoms were different, this time I had very high blood pressure.”
Eoin got married in June 2008. He was told by a consultant at Beaumont Hospital that his kidney would last only a couple of months more. By then his five brothers and father had decided to go forward for live donation. His eldest brother, Kevin, was a perfect match and the transplant was scheduled for March/April 2009.
“In September, I was quite ill and started on dialysis again. I was still working but doing half my normal hours. My employers were very understanding and flexible.”
As Eoin and his wife, Michelle, prepared for Christmas on December 23 he got a telephone call at 2am from Beaumont Hospital.
“They told me they had a Christmas present for me, a kidney. I never expected it to happen. I was only on the transplant list for three months.
“There was huge panic after the call. We threw everything into the car and my wife drove me as fast as she safely could to Dublin. They had to do a battery of tests again which were nerve-wracking. After that I was wheeled down to theatre for the four-hour operation. This time I was not as nervous as before.”
Eoin recovered quickly and was out of hospital within six days. He is back at work and feeling great.
“Now my wife and I can start planning for the future. We got married in June but our lives were on pause. Now I am better than ever.”
He is indebted to his donor and his/her family for giving him the gift of life.
“I know s/he gave a kidney to me and to a girl in Wicklow. It made a huge difference to us both. I know the donor was someone my age and it must have been a very difficult decision for their family. I’m very appreciative of that.”
Organ Donor Awareness Week
Angeline Cooke, a kidney transplant recipient from Maunsells Road, Taylor’s Hill, says there is an urgent need for more transplants to take place to keep pace with the numbers of new patients receiving dialysis treatment.
Ms Cooke, who received her transplant in 1996 and who is the local co-ordinator of the Irish Kidney Association’s National Organ Donor Awareness Week which kicks off on Saturday, says in 2007 11 patients attending Merlin Park Hospital for dialysis received kidney transplants.
“This was good. However, numbers fell to seven in 2008 and there have been none so far this year.”
She says there are currently more than 100 patients on dialysis in Galway. “There are 85 patients attending Unit 7, Merlin Park Hospital, 12 attending the private Wellstone Clinic in Galway and 20 on home dialysis from Galway and the neighbouring counties attending Unit 1, Merlin Park. That is an increase of over 50 per cent over the past five years.
“According to Dr David Lappin, nephrologist at Merlin Park Hospital, there are about 44 patients awaiting transplants at the moment. That is less than half the number on dialysis and is due to the state of health of the individual patients. He says patients with high blood pressure and diabetes are prone to develop chronic kidney disease so should visit their GP regularly and have their blood pressure monitored. Early detection is the key. Eight to 10 per cent of the population have some degree of chronic kidney disease.”
Organ donor card
She says Awareness Week focuses on donor families, organ recipients, the importance of carrying an organ donor card and raising funds for their services to kidney patients.
“Donor Week in Galway was launched by Anthony Ryan of Ryan’s Shop. He and his two sons most generously donated the organs of their beloved wife and mother, Anne Ryan, when tragedy struck nearly four years ago. At least eight people benefited from their gift of life.”
Ms Cooke says Mr Ryan represents all donor families who have so generously thought of others in their hour of great grief.
“We can never be grateful enough to them. It is now over 13 years since I received my successful kidney transplant and I am deeply grateful to my unknown donor family for their wonderful gift of life to me.”
She explains the Irish Kidney Association promotes the donation and transplantation of all organs.
“It is important to note that organs may be removed for transplantation only if the donor has died in hospital and only if his or her next of kin gives permission. Organs are removed only when two doctors, working independently, have certified that the person has suffered brain death following a series of strict tests. The organ donor card, therefore, is all important in expressing your wishes.”
* Donor cards are available from local pharmacies or simply text the word “Donor” to 50050.
* Forget-me-not” emblems and donor card keyrings, lapel pins and car/fridge magnets will be on sale at supermarkets and on the streets of Galway on Friday and Saturday April 3 and 4.
* The Galway Branch of the IKA will hold its annual thanksgiving Mass for organ donors and their families at the Sacred Heart Church, Seamus Quirke Road on Sunday at 12.15p.m.
* For further information on the Irish Kidney Association telephone 1890 543639 or log onto www.ika.ie