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'Donating my kidney to dad was the easiest decision I've ever taken after the sacrifices he made for me growing up'

Ivan Little meets Co Down's Paul Magill and daughter Adeva, who gave her dad the ultimate gift

Published 05/04/2016

Life bond: Adeva Hillis with her dad Paul Magill just four weeks after their kidney transplant operation
Life bond: Adeva Hillis with her dad Paul Magill just four weeks after their kidney transplant operation
Family ties: Adeva holds a picture of her mum Paula Lavery
Picture of health: Adeva Hillis with her dad Paul Magill and her daughter Madison at home in Banbridge

She didn't wrap it up with a bow and it didn't cost her a penny but the 'present' that Adeva Hillis gave to her father was the most precious one he'd ever received.

For what Paul Magill got from his daughter was the priceless gift of life, in the shape of a desperately-needed kidney.

Yet 25-year-old Adeva insisted that her decision to donate the organ to her beloved dad was the easiest she'd ever had to make.

"People always say to me that it must have been a very difficult thing for me to do but honestly it wasn't," says Adeva, as she sat next to her father, the picture of health and happiness, on the sofa of his home in Seapatrick near Banbridge. "I love him so, so much.

"He made bigger sacrifices for me when I was growing up."

Which was a reference to the fact that 49-year-old Paul, who's a skilled cabinet maker, raised Adeva and her two older siblings on his own after his wife, their mother, passed away nearly 20 years ago.

The bond between father and daughter has always been strong, but they became even closer after Paul was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease nearly seven years ago.

Paul was in and out of hospitals around Northern Ireland repeatedly, as baffled medics tried to find a remedy for his problems and last year they came to the conclusion that the only way to save him was through a kidney transplant. A live one. And the search then began for a suitable donor with the initial emphasis on finding a family member whose kidney would be a match.

After it was established that one of Adeva's kidneys would be perfect for her father, the doctors sat her and Paul down together and explained the potentials and the pitfalls of a transplant from daughter to dad.

But Adeva says: "They wanted to ensure that we had the full picture, but I told them there and then that I was going to give my dad my kidney and I just wanted them to get on with it."

But it wasn't quite that simple. More examinations had to be undertaken over the next months to make sure as far as possible that everything would be alright and last July the pioneering medical teams at Belfast's City Hospital finally gave the go-ahead for the transplant.

Just over a month ago, Adeva and Paul were brought into the hospital for what they both knew would be one of the most important days of their lives, Tuesday, March 1.

"It was nerve-wracking," says Paul. "Adeva and I were in rooms which were close to each other and they took her away in the morning to remove her kidney.

"And when it came time for me to be prepared for the operating theatre, I asked if I could see her just to reassure myself that she was okay, because I was really worried about her.

"I had a lot to lose, but it was even worse for Adeva and I was concerned how the organ donation would leave her, coping with just one kidney.

"They brought me into the intensive care unit and she was just coming around. She was able to give me a little thumbs-up sign which was just wonderful to see. It meant the world to me and I was able to face my surgery in a more settled state of mind."

Paul says he felt like a new man after the transplant. But it was only a temporary respite: "I was really sick again for days afterwards. I lost over a stone in weight, and I was starting to wonder if the procedure had been a success and if I had put Adeva through all this for nothing."

But the patient was urged to be patient, that things would get better and he was discharged from hospital after a couple of weeks to continue his recovery at home.

"Being allowed back to my own house was fantastic and helped me no end," he says. "The sickness has gone away, even if the pain hasn't, and I was told that my bloods have shown that it's all looking good."

Paul has been warned however that there's a 40% chance the disease could return. "But we will just have to wait and see," he says. "However, I am really grateful to Adeva for what she has done for me. She is a special girl.

"I didn't put any pressure on her at all. If she had decided against giving me her kidney I would just have sat on and, if hardy had come to hardy, I would have taken the consequences of whatever came along. And that could have meant going on dialysis, which was something I didn't want.

"I have seen people on dialysis when I go to Newry and it is scary, even though the patients I met there were all upbeat and always had a smile on their faces."

As for Adeva, who has an 18-month-old daughter called Madison, doctors have said they're happy with her progress in the wake of the transplant.

Adeva was able to go back to her home in Donacloney after four days with a warning that she would have to rest.

"They told me I couldn't even lift my daughter, and that was very difficult for Madison and me," says Adeva who won't be returning to her work as a waitress at the Albert Bar in Banbridge until the end of May.

"But seeing my dad looking so much brighter than he has done is just the tonic that I and the rest of his family need, including his fiancee Karen and their three young children."

Karen (32) was also prepared to give a kidney to Paul. "But after I was examined they told me I wasn't a match," Karen says.

"However, the option was for me to give my kidney to someone who had a kidney that would have been suitable for Paul, and then his or her organ would have been transplanted.

"The choice was down to me and Adeva but eventually the doctors said that her kidney would be the one they would use."

Paul and his extended family are hoping they've now come through a protracted nightmare from which they feared they might never awaken after his kidney problems surfaced following a severe bout of tonsillitis

"I started to pass black blood and I was rushed to hospital where they found I had a disease which had damaged both of my kidneys," Paul says.

"I was going back and forwards to hospitals for three or four weeks at a time, and I was vomiting all the while and there were complications with my liver and my pancreas. The tiredness was unreal and I was sleeping 24/7, plus another side effect was memory loss.

"Doctors were baffled about how to proceed and I was undergoing tests, lots of them. I was on loads of medications. They didn't want me to go on to dialysis and they finally said a live transplant would be the best solution, so they tested five members of my family including a brother and sister.

"And when they told us that Adeva's kidney would be ideal, we both knew we were in safe hands."

Adeva, whose dad proudly walked her down the aisle at her wedding to Jonathan Hillis almost three years ago, said medics have been pleased with her recuperation after the surgeries.

"I got a call just the other day to tell me that my kidney function was at a level which would be normal for someone who had both of their organs," she says. "And apart from a little bit of tiredness occasionally, I feel no different now from the way I felt before the operations."

Paul says he was feeling 'a hundred times' better than he had done for years and he was looking forward to rebuilding a normal life for himself and his family. He also says he can't thank the medical teams around Northern Ireland enough for going the extra mile to help him. "It was a long, long road but their dedication, professionalism and commitment were quite remarkable," he says.

"It's no surprise to me that the City Hospital have a marvellous reputation for kidney transplants.

"I think there were over 120 of them last year but most of them were organs from deceased people."

Paul and Adeva hope that by sharing their story they can help raise awareness of the importance of organ donations across Northern Ireland.

"We didn't know much about them until we were informed we would be going through the whole process, and we would really hope that more people will agree to become donors," he says.

"We want folk here in Northern Ireland to know that their decision could help give someone else the prospect of a longer life.

"And we are pleased to say that there have already been quite a few of our friends and neighbours who have gone on the (organ donor) list," adds Paul, who has been so buoyed up by his transplant that he and fiancée Karen have now set a date for their wedding in June.

"We didn't want to arrange anything until I'd come through the transplant with a positive result.

"And we have Adeva and the medics to thank for everything."

Belfast Telegraph

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