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Mark Dobson: January is perfect time to reflect on great year

In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, urges us to consider a New Year's resolution

As we enter into a new year it's wonderful to see so many opportunities opening up to continue to promote the lifesaving message of organ donation. Happy new year to you all and thank you for the lovely Christmas messages and cards.

Across the festive period mum and I were in touch with so many wonderful people, either waiting on a transplant, just post-surgery or whose gift of life has transformed them in so many amazing ways. Meeting with a transplant recipient, having a chat over a coffee and offering support is one of the most rewarding experiences.

However, we must always remember that a new year can also bring new challenges for many who are waiting on that lifesaving transplant or who remain imprisoned on dialysis.

Right across the Christmas period our wonderful doctors, nurses and auxiliaries were working away in our renal units to support patients just as if it was any other time.

Christmas 2018 was very different from last year for the Dobson family as we were freed from the need to have those Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve trips to Daisy Hill Hospital. I do miss the chat and camaraderie with my fellow patients and it's lovely for us to keep in touch with them especially over Christmas.

In my life I know the freedom that comes from receiving a transplant, first in 2009 and then again in March last year, and wish that everyone waiting on a transplant could know that precious feeling. This year I was able to enjoy our family Christmas dinner at the Burrendale Hotel thanks to mum and what she did for me.

I even got the chance to wish her a very happy birthday on January 3, writing on the card: 'From Mark and kidney xxx'. Not too many people can put that on their mother's birthday card and bring them to tears.

I want to dedicate my first column of 2019 to a nine-year-old girl, Rebecca, from Coleraine.

Not too many nine year olds would give up the Saturday before returning to school to help support kidney patients but that's exactly what she did.

I should explain a little bit about the background. Back in March, when mum and I were in the transplant ward at Belfast City Hospital for our transplant surgery, mum lay opposite Rebecca's mum, Heather Vance. Heather, who had just received a kidney transplant while mum was donating to me, struck up a friendship with mum which has endured.

Heather organised with Asda Coleraine a fundraiser for mum's charity, Kidney Care UK, and she travelled up to be with Heather and Rebecca on Saturday. They spent the day chatting with shoppers and talking transplants and the need to support kidney patients and their families.

It was lovely for two people who bonded in similar situations to get the chance to talk to people about their experiences of transplants and the wonderful team at Belfast City Hospital who make it possible.

But the star of the day was definitely Rebecca who has seen her mum go through so much. Thank you to everyone who supported this vital cause and also a massive well done to all involved and especially to Rebecca.

Perusing Twitter across the new year, I noticed a tweet which included a saying from US singer Brad Paisley: 'Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one'. That tweet got me thinking about what dialysis and kidney patients wish for in a new year. For many it will be an 'alarm free' dialysis session and for others it will be keeping their potassium levels healthy. But of course for so many it will be that long-held wish to hear their phone ring with the most important message of all - a match kidney is available.

That call can only come because of the selfless generosity of another and if you haven't already made a New Year's resolution I have a suggestion for you. Make it about organ donation - either to sign up yourself to be a donor or to talk to others about how they have it within them to be a lifesaver.

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