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Mark Dobson: Mayor sets the example by backing our charity

In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, thanks those making a difference to patients

Charity champion: Paul Michael (centre), Antrim and Newtownabbey Mayor, gets a thank-you certificate from Mark Dobson and mum Jo-Anne
Charity champion: Paul Michael (centre), Antrim and Newtownabbey Mayor, gets a thank-you certificate from Mark Dobson and mum Jo-Anne

Last week, mum and I had the privilege of being invited to visit Paul's Parlour. No, that's not the kidney kitchen I've been talking about, but the Mayoral pad of Councillor Paul Michael who is Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey.

Just after my renal appointment at Belfast City Hospital, mum and I hot-footed it to Antrim to meet Paul who has been so generous in his support for local kidney patients through a donation to Kidney Care UK. We were there to say a special thank-you for his support and to talk to him about the needs of kidney patients.

It was lovely to meet a councillor who cares, to present him with a 'thank-you' certificate and to take the time to talk to Paul about our own experiences and the many challenges and medical miracles experienced by kidney patients right across Northern Ireland.

Thank-you Mr Mayor - we are looking forward to linking up again in the New Year!

Earlier in the day, while we were at the renal unit, we also delivered some presents to the nurses and wonderful staff who care for me throughout the year. We wanted to say a very festive 'thank-you' and to pass on our Christmas greetings as my next appointment will be a few days after Christmas Day. This just goes to show once again that these amazing 'superheroes' work right throughout Christmas and are constantly deserving of our praise and admiration.

Meanwhile, given all the debate which has been brewing around Brexit, I thought I would take a short break in Donegal over the weekend and ended up enjoying a relaxing seaweed bath as well as proving that seamless borders help to break down barriers in so many different ways. Regular readers of my column will know that I've raised the potential implications of Brexit for dialysis and transplant patients.

This is a crucial issue for patients across the country given the fact that, while travelling across the EU, people receiving dialysis treatment have the ability to get that life-saving procedure because of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) arrangements.

The 29,000 and more dialysis patients across the country can't just skip out a session or leave longer times between them because it is literally a matter of life and death.

The EHIC makes travelling inside Europe possible because it ensures continuous treatment as renal units are reimbursed - this helps patients to travel for both holidays and, for many, to continue to work.

In all the political clamour for a solution it must be remembered that patients should retain the right to travel and receive their treatment just as they do under the current arrangements.

I know that so many people are working hard to make sure that this is the case but it would be a travesty if we were to look back on something which patients take for granted now, only to realise that it was no longer there.

Closer to home, a massive thank-you to everyone who packed out St Mark's Church in Portadown on Friday night to hear the uplifting voices of the choir under the expert baton of Gordon Speers.

This was the 21st annual service in the church and this year was in aid of mum's charity, Kidney Care UK, and the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance. From Handel's Messiah to the Twelve Days of Christmas, everyone was treated to a festive sprinkling of Christmas cheer and all in aid of two worthy causes.

Thank-you Gordon and everyone involved for thinking of kidney patients - it really does mean the world to us!

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