Mark Dobson: Hero behind a miracle made in Northern Ireland will never be forgotten
In the ninth of his exclusive weekly columns, Mark Dobson, the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, who is on dialysis, thanks well-wishers for their brilliant support and pays tribute to a legendary fundraiser
As Christmas approaches we will all turn our thoughts to family and friends - those who are closest to us in life and in love.
At this time of year the unique bonds which wrap around a family are tightened, and so it is true for our organ donation family in Northern Ireland. We are bound together by a common hope for a better and brighter future as we are cared for and put our trust in our amazing health professionals.
Since I started to write about what it's like to be a dialysis patient waiting on a transplant, I have been touched by just how wide our renal community extends. I have had contact through my blog and column from people across the world and, just like my beloved Green and White Army, we all have common aims which always follow a set routine and a strict set of rules. Whether its avoiding potassium in our diets, hooking up regularly to our dialysis sessions or carefully managing our fluid intake, the experience of patients is always the same.
Our routine in Newry, however, has been altered slightly over the past few dialysis sessions as they carry out some work in our ward to make life a little more comfortable for us patients. We are having new heating and cooling systems installed, which are essential as kidney patients are often colder. Although we never grumble (well, not that often) we will all feel the benefits of positive change for which we have to thank those who have supported the renal unit with their generous donations.
Speaking of giving support to renal units, I want to thank everyone who has popped onto my JustGiving page to help support my Christmas Appeal. I'm fundraising to help support the work of the two renal units which have helped me so much this year - the Kidney Transplant Unit at Belfast City Hospital and the Renal Dialysis Unit at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.
I'm raffling off one of my signed Northern Ireland Football shirts to a lucky winner, with every £5 donation getting you one entry into the draw. To find out more about this and how you can help support kidney patients this Christmas, please check out my JustGiving page.
This week our organ donation community in Northern Ireland has lost a father figure. Walter Kerr, the co-founder and president of charity NI Kidney Research Fund, whose farm is close to ours in Donaghcloney, was a giant of the organ donation family.
Walter, along with his late wife Josie who, as well as running a farm and the then Ballynabragget Post Office near Waringstown and Donaghcloney, co-founded the charity through which they would both spend the rest of their lives promoting and raising funds.
Through the pain and anguish of their personal experience of renal failure, heartbreak and the loss of three beloved sons at birth, Josie and Walter created their own made in Northern Ireland miracle. They inspired other kidney patients, their families and those with a connection to the transplant community to join an ever-growing group of volunteers dedicated to continued renal research.
Josie and Walter's legacy lives on proudly and I will always remember Mum dedicating the public consultation report of her organ donation Bill to Josie's memory - a gesture which I know was much appreciated by Walter, who will be dearly missed.
I will leave the last word for this week to Walter's late wife Josie. They are taken from a heartfelt letter which she penned in the 1970s to the Belfast Telegraph - words which are just as relevant today as they were over 40 years ago.
"Here in Northern Ireland we join people of every class and creed with but one aim - to raise funds for research."
Mark's JustGiving page is at: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dobsonondialysis