Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Transplant wait 'a rollercoaster'

Joe Duffy with 12-year-old Megan Carter and father Eddie (right) at the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week
Joe Duffy with 12-year-old Megan Carter and father Eddie (right) at the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week

A taxi-driver called seven times for a double lung transplant is desperately hoping the next one will be the match that transforms his life.

Stephen Smith has been dependent on an oxygen supply 24 hours a day for the last seven years, when he was forced to give up work, his social life and love of playing Gaelic football and soccer.

The 34-year-old revealed he has received seven transplant calls since 2010, the last one just five months ago.

Mr Smith helped launched organ donor awareness week which aims to get more people - and more importantly their families - to understand the importance of donating an organ after death.

Figures revealed there were 78 deceased donors last year, a 17% fall from a record 93. The 206 organs included 131 kidneys, 50 livers, 14 lungs, 10 hearts and a pancreas, alongside 32 living donor kidney transplants.

Mark Murphy, Irish Kidney Association chief executive, raised concerns over the drop in numbers and called for people to get a donor card, but warned relatives can veto any donation regardless of a person's intention before death.

"The willingness of the Irish public to donate is not the problem when it comes to organ donation. It is the lack of infrastructure, an organ registry and the employment of fully trained organ donor co-ordinators in all our hospitals," he said.

"It is the lack of infrastructure, an organ registry and the employment of fully trained organ donor co-ordinators in all our hospitals."

Schoolgirl Megan Carter is among 30 Irish patients on a database for a paired kidney exchange programme between Ireland and the UK.

The 12-year-old and her father Eddie hope to travel to London this summer for the kidney swap shop, where Megan will be matched with a donor and her father's kidney matched with that donor's ill relative or friend. Megan, from Coolock in north Dublin, has no kidneys since a donated one was rejected by her body last year and undergoes 10 hours dialysis each night.

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