'My mum Jo-Anne Dobson has given me the best birthday present ever'
In his weekly column, transplant patient Mark Dobson, the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, is recovering at home after receiving one of his mum's kidneys, and is delighted the early signs are positive
Last week, my mum made my dreams come true. What a wonderful week it's been, as we were under the amazing care of the professionals at the transplant unit, Ward 11 South, at Belfast City Hospital. At the moment, the signs are that everything has gone to plan, but as our consultant surgeon, Tim Brown, who conducted both our operations, said, we aren't counting any of our chickens (or as we have a family beef farm, cows) just yet.
There is no better aid to recovery than being told by your surgeon that both operations went perfectly and Mum and I are taking it very carefully and having plenty of rest and relaxation.
It seems like only yesterday, but it was Monday last week that we were admitted to our wards, which were next door to each other, and underwent surgery the next morning - mum first, at 8.30am, and then I headed down at around 12.30pm to receive her kidney.
Mum was back up on the ward later on Tuesday afternoon and was up and walking around a little by the time I was wheeled back up. We met up again the next morning and I remember her coming into my ward and saying, "We did it!", and we certainly did.
Since then, we have been through various stages of recovery, from being on pain relief, which we still have in various forms, to receiving a run-through from the nurses on all my different tablets which I need to take - four times a day. I've said before that renal patients rattle as we walk along.
We got back home at the weekend and have been coming to terms with what we can and can't do while we are taking it easy and recovering. The reality of a renal transplant, which any recipient and indeed donor will tell you, is that we really need to be careful not to undo all of the good work of the surgeon.
While I was absolutely gutted not to be able to achieve my goal of joining the Green and White Army at Windsor Park on Saturday, I was delighted that the Northern Ireland team played a blinder, beating South Korea 2-1.
I was cheering them on while looking down from floor 11 of the City Hospital, wearing the brand new Northern Ireland away top which the team had so kindly delivered to me on the ward. I was able to watch the match on my laptop and hopefully didn't disturb my fellow patients too much with my muffled shouting.
It meant so much to me, as a lifelong fan, to be able to receive a video-message from Niall McGinn, which was shown to me just a few hours after my surgery.
Mum and I cannot thank enough our consultant surgeon, Tim Brown, consultant nephrologist and living donor co-ordinator Dr Aisling Courtney, and the nurses and auxiliaries at Ward 11 South for all they have done for us throughout our transplant.
It is strange writing up my column for the first time at home as - even though it's Monday - I no longer need to make the journey to Newry to be hooked up to my dialysis machine. I really miss my fellow patients and the staff in Newry, who have been wonderful to me throughout the more than 300 hours of dialysis I have endured since August.
I have promised to call in when I am feeling better and catch up with everyone at the unit, which became my second home for seven months. Last Monday, just before we headed from Newry to Belfast to be admitted to the ward, Mum caught up with Dr John Harty, consultant nephrologist at Daisy Hill, who is going to cycle the Tour of Flanders Sportive to raise funds for charity, Kidney Care UK.
This annual event, which has been called the 'World Cup of cycling', certainly isn't for the faint-hearted, with its steep inclines and cobbled streets.
Massive thanks to Dr Harty for agreeing to support the charity. If you are able to help support him in his cycling in aid of Kidney Care UK, you can donate via the JustGiving page which Mum has set up for the Belfast Marathon, with all funds going directly to the charity.
Mum has truly given me the best ever birthday present. As I celebrate my 25th birthday today, I am conscious I have the ability to look forward to many birthdays ahead with my new kidney and it's all thanks to Mum.
In the weeks ahead, we will continue to take things very easy with plenty of rest and relaxation on the menu. That menu can also include some of the foods which have been complete no-nos for me while I was a dialysis patient.
Yet another area of life which will change for me after my transplant.
However, none of those cows is being counted just yet - even though the maternity wing at our farm is in full swing at the moment.
Love you Mum.
Support Dr John Harty's Tour of Flanders Sportive in aid of Kidney Care UK at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamkidneycareukbelfastmarathon2018