Belfast Telegraph

Joe's selfless act inspired me to donate my kidney to an ill stranger

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

Just nine months ago, Peter Little had never heard of Joe Brolly.

But learning about the barrister's passionate campaign to increase organ donation prompted the Dundonald man to make a brave decision that would save a stranger's life.

The 54-year-old first came across colourful GAA pundit Joe as he spoke to the media last year of his decision to donate a kidney to his ill friend, Shane Finnegan.

Hearing about the devastation of how Joe's kidney was rejected, the married father-of-two felt compelled to find out if he was a match for Shane instead.

He wasn't – but he was a match for another kidney patient facing the same future.

"I was really touched by what Joe had done," Peter said.

"I thought of how disappointed they would be the transplant hadn't worked and thought it would be wonderful if I was a match for Shane.

"It's encouraging for Joe to know as a result of him speaking, I was moved by his story and if people are now moved by my story that's great."

While Mr Brolly's kidney donation wasn't successful, he has since launched on a determined campaign to increase awareness of the importance of organ donation – and get Northern Ireland to introduce a 'soft opt-out' system.

After hearing the champion Gaelic footballer talking passionately about organ donation, Mr Little called the transplant co-ordinator at Belfast City Hospital.

He had to go through a series of tests to ensure he was physically and mentally strong enough to donate.

Peter wasn't a match for Belfast PR man Shane, but he took the selfless decision to donate his kidney to an anonymous woman in England, in her 30s, who it was found he did match. She had previously suffered a failed kidney transplant.

Following a transplant operation on May 7 at the City Hospital the recipient has been given a new lease of life.

"I will never know her," Peter told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I know she had a failed transplant from a deceased donor, her first name, where she is from and that's she's doing great.

"Six months after the operation, if she wishes, she can send a letter through her transplant coordinator to mine.

"I am totally relaxed about the whole process, I am at peace about it."

Peter, who runs a travel guide publishing company, is a keen tennis player and an elder at Fisherwick Presbyterian Church in Belfast. He said his wife Linda and their sons, Matty (22) and Jonny (19), have been very supportive.

"I am very blessed in my life to have a beautiful wife, Linda, and two great boys, a supportive family circle and good friends," he said.

"It was very satisfying to know that I was healthy enough to be able to donate a kidney that is life-changing for the recipient.

"They matched me from 10,000 people on the UK database, so we were near enough a perfect match.

"There is no problem living on one kidney and it helps that I don't drink alcohol."

Peter said he would be happy to chat to anyone considering becoming an altruistic organ donor, but stressed the decision must be with the individual.

"The team at City Hospital is so dedicated," he added.

"The NHS comes in for a lot of flak, so I wrote to Health Minister Edwin Poots to let him know how impressed I was with the transplant team."

Regarding a change in the law in Northern Ireland from opting in to presumed consent and opting out, Peter is all for it.

"It's an absolute no-brainer," he said.

"I see no reason why they shouldn't bring it in."

For more information visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.

STORY SO FAR

In June, Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson called for the public to take part in the consultation stage of her Private Member's Bill which seeks to change the current law on organ donation from an opt-in to opt-out system. This would mean organ donation consent on death would be presumed, unless the deceased had previously opted out. Former Derry All-Ireland Gaelic player Joe Brolly, a GAA pundit and barrister, is campaigning for the 'soft opt-out' system. For more information visit www.makelifeyourlegacy.com

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