PSNI officer and last year’s 999 Hero winner celebrates with boy on anniversary of transplant
A senior police officer who donated his kidney to save the life of a nine-year-old boy was the winner of our 2021 999 Hero Award at last year’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards in association with Ulster Bank.
PSNI Chief Inspector Graham Dodds didn’t hesitate when he heard a heartfelt appeal on the radio from Joshua Dolan’s mum for a kidney to save her seriously ill son.
The live transplant surgeries were carried out in May 2021 and now, over a year on, both Joshua and Graham have made a full recovery and are enjoying a good quality of life.
And the two new friends were reunited for the first time to mark the first anniversary of the operation on May 18, when Graham made a surprise visit to Joshua’s Enniskillen home.
Graham, who has recently been appointed as head of the PSNI’s Road and Policy branch, said: “Joshua didn’t know anything about it and it was a great surprise for him.
“I brought the latest police traffic vehicle with me as you know that Joshua is mad about the police and a special kidney cake.
“I arrived up to his house in this new police car and all I could see was his wee face at the window with a big beaming smile.
“He came out and gave me the biggest hug. I also had a new PSNI police peak cap for him to commemorate our first anniversary and he was delighted.
“Joshua is doing really well. He is back to school full-time and doesn’t have to make that journey to Belfast now for dialysis.
“He is playing GAA and is enjoying the good health that he should be for a boy his age. It is wonderful to see it.”
Little Joshua was gravely ill in late 2020 with kidney failure.
When tests showed no family member was a suitable donor and little Joshua’s condition became critical, his mum Mary went on local radio to make a desperate appeal for a donor to save his life.
Graham (46), a father of two boys from Omagh, didn’t hesitate to get in touch.
He explained: “It was a very simple decision. If Joshua didn’t get a kidney, it was likely he would die as he was in kidney failure.
“I have been a police officer for nearly 24 years and we are that breed, if someone needs help it is in the police’s DNA to just do it. I just knew it was the right thing to do.”
Hospital tests revealed that Graham was a good match for Joshua and he was able to give the child the best Christmas present ever — the gift of life.
Married to Nicola, Graham had the full support of his wife and his two boys, Alexander (14) and Ethan (16).
However, Covid meant that transplant surgeries were cancelled as the country went into another lockdown in early 2021.
Graham used the time to help keep Joshua’s spirits up by striking up a friendship through video-calls.
Surgery finally went ahead on May 18 last year, when Graham came through a major four-hour operation to remove his kidney in Belfast City Hospital.
The organ was then quickly transported to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where in an hour-long surgery it was given to Joshua.
Graham recalled: “When I came round from my surgery they were starting to operate on Joshua. It was a hectic day for both of us.”
After the surgery, Joshua’s relieved mum Mary said: “If I was to say ‘thank you’ to Graham 1,000 times, it wouldn’t be enough but he knows how much we appreciate what he has done.
“He has saved Joshua’s life. It is as plain and simple as that.”
And while Joshua immediately got a new lease of life, Graham faced a four-month recovery at home.
However, now back to full health, he has also enjoyed an eventful 2022.
In April, he was honoured to be appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone and in June was invited to take part in the Queen’s Thanksgiving service in St Paul’s Cathedral as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
However, it is his Spirit of Northern Ireland Award which he says takes pride of place in his study at home.
Urging people to nominate for this year’s awards in association with Ulster Bank, he added: “I am really grateful to Sunday Life for giving us the award and the chance to get dressed up for a good day out, we had a great time.”
Shield Accident Management says it is delighted to sponsor this year’s 999 Hero Award, helping to shine a light on the incredible work done by the health and emergency services.
Director Monica Hughes commented: “We can’t wait to recognise the life-saving efforts that the men and women working in our health service and emergency services carry out selflessly every day.
“We recently had a frightening experience where we needed the help of the emergency services following a family accident, so we know first-hand the genuine value of what they do.
“Shield Accident Management thinks the time is right for them to get the recognition they so rightfully deserve.”
Shield Accident Management was created to take away the stress that comes with being involved in a road traffic collision.
At no financial cost to themselves, motorists can access the company’s full suite of services, which includes vehicle recovery, storage, replacement vehicles and the handling of all necessary insurance or legal affairs with medical assistance if required.
To nominate in all 11 categories for this year’s awards email firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS CATEGORIES AND HOW TO NOMINATE:
Unsung Hero (sponsored by The Boulevard)
Someone whose great deed or deeds have previously gone unnoticed, but who will have made a major contribution to your life or to your community.
Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.
Spirit of Youth (sponsored by Better)
Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.
999 Hero (sponsored by Shield Accident Management)
A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.
Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or as a fundraiser for many years.
Spirit of Health
A medical professional who has gone the extra mile to improve the health and well-being of their patients.
Spirit of Education
This award recognises a truly inspirational teacher who has helped children and young people fulfil their potential.
Caring Spirit Award (sponsored by Power NI)
A person, young or old, who has dedicated their time to caring for a friend or family member.
Spirit of Sport
Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to local sport over a number of years.
Climate Hero (sponsored by Concentrix)
Seeks to recognise an individual or community group going the extra mile to care for and protect the local environment for future generations.
Someone who the judges feel represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.
Nominations will be received up until August 22. To nominate someone couldn’t be easier. Simply email your nominations to us at email@example.com and tell us the story of the person who has made a difference. You can also post nominations to us at Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, 33 Clarendon Road, Belfast, BT1 3BG