Mark Dobson: Each year I ask Santa to help encourage organ donation
In his weekly column Mark Dobson, the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, who is on dialysis, tells how his wish for Christmas is for more people to come forward and become organ donors
As the festive season continues we are beginning to see so many colourful Christmas trees sprouting up in our homes, shopping centres and town centres - that is if you can see them through the snow!
This week we got the chance to celebrate a very special tree which has huge significance to the organ donation family in Northern Ireland. No, it's not the Dobson family Christmas tree, which is twinkling away brightly as I write this week's column in our family room, it's the Erskine House Tree which has just been crowned Northern Ireland's Woodland Trust Tree of the Year.
Back in October I was writing about this very special tree and the over 50 year links it has with promoting organ donation, embodying our global kidney links and inspiring the next generation of medical professionals. A special tree indeed and very fitting that it now holds the crown of Northern Ireland's top tree this year, a richly deserved accolade voted for by you, the public.
Thank you to everyone who took part in what was a wonderful joint campaign between Queen's University and the Belfast Trust and to everyone who voted in huge numbers to ensure it came out on top - Mum and I were so honoured to be part of the team.
Another important Christmas tradition, just as traditional as our trees, is preparing and writing our lists to Santa. This is something I have done for many years but maybe a little differently to most people.
While I know many children, and quite a few adults, who happily flick through the Argos catalogue or search through endless online shops to find those perfect Christmas gifts, my list to Santa has never changed and, as always, includes just one entry.
Each year I ask Santa to help encourage more and more people to learn about organ donation and how they can become willing donors - to speak with their loved ones and to become a life-saver. Organ donation is the ultimate gift - a gift which enhances the lives of transplant recipients and enriches the lives of their families.
As in my case when I received my first kidney transplant back in 2009; when the gift of a transplant comes at a time of unimaginable grief for the family of the donor, it enables someone else to live on. Organ donors are the heroes of the organ donation family because they choose to become life-savers - they mean the world to us because they, like every transplant patient on a waiting list, understand first-hand the scarcity of organ donations.
They say you can never have too much of a good thing but until last week I really wasn't convinced that applied to my routine dialysis sessions.
However, as I am still having some complications with my HD line, the connection in my neck through which I get my dialysis, I ended up in Daisy Hill for four days rather than my usual three.
Each week I have three four-hour sessions of dialysis on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to keep me healthy, but as I have been experiencing some difficulties I had to make the journey to Newry on Tuesday for an extra session.
However, I was in my usual ward and under the care of the staff, including Ursula and Michelle - who probably see a little too much of me for their own good.
I know I keep talking about all the fantastic renal nurses who look after me while I am under their care but they really do everything to make sure that all the patients are in the best care and comfort while we undergo dialysis.
Well, that's it for this week. I'm hoping for a smoother run of dialysis sessions next week which will mean much less bleeping from my machine - it's sounding so regularly at the moment that it's even beginning to sound like a Christmas tune.