All-Ireland winning GAA footballer Joe Brolly has spoken of the devastation he suffered on hearing his kidney donation to a friend had failed — saying the pain of it left him in hospital.
In the Derry legend’s first interview since his donation to Shane Finnegan failed, the 43-year-old said he had to be taken to Belfast City Hospital from his home after learning the kidney had to be removed.
Mr Finnegan (40) was recovering at Guy’s Hospital in London last month when complications were discovered nine days after the major operation.
The father-of-three and Mr Brolly met each other when they ended up coaching the same team in St Brigid’s GAC Club in Belfast.
Mr Brolly heard the public relations executive, who has been waiting for a transplant for over six years, needed a donor and offered to help in an incredible act of altruism.
The outspoken pundit said he has been left with no regrets after undergoing the operation together at Guy’s Hospital.
Speaking of the distressing moment he heard the donation had failed, Mr Brolly said: “When Catherine (Shane’s wife) rang from the hospital, she could barely talk. All of a sudden I was in agony, I kid you not.
“I was in so much agony that I had to be taken into Belfast City Hospital once the news came through.”
Until that point Mr Brolly, who had been coping without pain killers, said he had been on an emotional high.
“I had stopped taking the pain killers,” he said. “But then I was in really serious pain. It was devastating.
“It was very agonising. It was so agonising because it was a perfectly healthy kidney.
“I was very deeply affected in the week or two afterwards. For me, it’s a deep, deep disappointment. It won’t go away. It will always be there. It’s like a bereavement.”
The barrister said he would be trying “to get on and get back into the swing of things but for Shane it’s different”.
“The clock is ticking and he needs a kidney from a live donor urgently,” he added.
Mr Brolly, who was part of the Sam Maguire-winning Derry team of 1993, explained that despite claims Mr Finnegan’s body had re
jected the organ, the kidney was in fact starved of oxygen because of a blood clot.
The Irish Mail on Sunday columnist told the newspaper: “It was an unforeseen complication and if it had been picked up earlier it would have been easy to deal with. But there are no recriminations here. The doctors were aghast at what happened.”
The barrister has also revealed that another two people have come forward for testing to see if their kidneys are a match for Mr Finnegan who is now recovering back in Northern Ireland.
“When I went to see Shane he was very, very weak,” Mr Brolly added.
“He was like a little waif. He lost a couple of stone and he was very fragile. But Shane is armour plated. Mentally, he is a juggernaut and he is up and at it again.
“It’s time to get on now though. Everybody has a sad story and it’s just the way things are.
“You’ve got to accept disappointments, there it is.”
Barrister Brolly wants change to donor law
By Lindsay Fergus
Barrister Joe Brolly has started work on a draft for a new organ-donor law that he wants to see introduced in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
The 43-year-old, who hopes to return to work next month after donating his kidney, has also had informal discussions with senior political figures here. He wants to see the law changed so that everyone is an organ donor unless they specifically opt not to be.
Brolly is determined to secure cross-party political support for a private members’ bill that could be brought before the Assembly.
There are currently 200 people in Northern Ireland waiting for a kidney transplant — including Shane Finnegan who has been sick for 20 years.
Brolly explained: “There is nothing to stop anyone putting up their hand and offering to be a donor. Anyone who is interested can contact me and I will speak and meet with them. There are a lot of people who are very frightened about being a living donor.
“But kidney transplants are the most reliable and successful of all transplants.”
Experts at Guy’s Hospital in London had not lost a kidney following a transplant in four years prior to the procedure involving Brolly and Mr Finnegan.
He added: “A lot of people in their lives ask the age-old question, ‘What’s life all about, what’s the point of it?’ Well anybody who has donated will never ask that question again.
“It is a given that it will change the recipient’s life but it will change the donor’s life forever.
“I could feel that in the first five days.
“There is so much to gain and so little to be afraid of.”