Mark Dobson: Seeing your story being told on TV gives new perspective
In his exclusive weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks at how his favourite soap Coronation Street took up the cause he is passionate about
Life imitates art - or so the saying goes. However, I feel its always important for art to sensitively imitate real life and nowhere more important than through the media. I have the Belfast Telegraph to thank for giving me a weekly platform to let everyone know what it's like being a kidney dialysis patient.
However, a brand new New Year storyline in my favourite soap, Coronation Street, has caught my attention. Carla, who is played by Alison King, made a dramatic return to the soap announcing that she had been diagnosed with kidney failure.
It was a surreal moment sitting in the kitchen with mum while watching an oh-so familiar storyline being introduced into Corrie. I am also delighted to know that charity Kidney Care UK has been working closely for some time with the producers to advise on the storyline and I am totally glued to see how it will play out.
I have no doubt that millions will be moved by the portrayal of a patient's perspective of kidney failure and congratulate everyone at Corrie for choosing a topic which will captivate the entire transplant family, educate viewers and have a positive impact on the promotion of organ donation. Well done, Corrie.
Looking down on the world from the top floor of the Belfast City Hospital can bring a unique perspective to your thoughts. When I am admitted, either to Ward 11 South or, on occasions, 11 North, I'm usually presented with a different view - whether it's looking across my beloved Windsor Park to the bright lights of Boucher Road or gazing at a snowy-tipped Divis and Black Mountain there is always plenty to look at as life goes on below.
Mum describes the 11th floor as the "floor of hope" for all transplant patients as at one time or another we pass through their amazing care - from the craic and banter with the nurses to those all-important conversations with consultants, it truly is a little world of its own.
Mum and I recently attended tests at the Renal Unit in Belfast and were thrilled to see that the number of transplants undertaken there in 2017 totalled 129.
It's staggering to think of the number of lives impacted positively and we hope to be back up soon as we continue our tests and prepare for the possibility of our transplant.
But when my attention is drawn away from watching the molten-like stream of bumper to bumper traffic as it snakes along the M1 it so often turns to thinking about my future. Transplant patients are always left with more questions than answers and, as has been said so many times, things seldom run as smoothly as they are intended to.
We have a lot of time to think, and so often overthink, about what is happening to us as we wait and we wonder.
I have been so blessed that I have been able to document my thoughts through my social media and this column as it allows me to help others.
But as I think about the future I am also conscious about how many other patients over the decades have spent their time in these wonderful wards, watching life going on below and thinking about what the future has in store for them.
Donating an organ is such a wonderful gift - the gift of life. It literally allows the amazing health professionals to un-pause the life of their patient and enable them to live the future they so often dreamed about.
Transplants have created possibilities unthinkable only a few short decades ago, literally opening the door to new life for so many.
As medical advances continue and public attitudes towards becoming a donor alter, thanks in no small part to the amazing work of organ donation charities and volunteers, I am confident that that door of possibilities will open wider for more and more patients.