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'The transplant family here work tirelessly to promote it'

In this week's column, Mark Dobson, who is on dialysis and is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, gives thanks for all the hard work and support for him and other kidney patients

Christmas party season arrived with a bang at Daisy Hill this week - even for us dialysis patients. While our diet remains very restricted, it was so lovely to be able to join in with my fellow patients while we were hooked up to our machines on Monday to enjoy some festive food.

The staff at Newry had made sure there were a few extra items on the menu for us. We still have to be very careful with our potassium levels and fluids - but you could say we are all dialysis party people. The staff really do care so much for us by allowing us to have a little slice of Christmas cheer to brighten up our dialysis sessions and I'm told there is more to come this week.

Thanks to all at Daisy Hill we will get a chance to say thanks properly to you all before Christmas.

Thankfully my dialysis is going a good bit better this week with a lot less beeping and ding-donging from my machine. Hopefully this means all will be well across New Year.

Members of our transplant family in Northern Ireland work tirelessly to promote their passion every single day of the year.

A transplant volunteer certainly isn't just for Christmas, they are signed up 365 and are always on the lookout for a new way to promote organ donation.

Mum visited ward 11 south at the end of last week and was texting to let me know they are at 126 transplants this year. This is a terrific achievement for the renal ward and its staff and while I will get the chance to wish everyone at Daisy Hill a Happy Christmas in person, I'm sending Christmas wishes to my transplant family at the Belfast City Hospital, too.

As a lifelong renal patient I have had the privilege of working with so many amazing champions for organ donation. People who do what they do, not just because it is their job, but because making things better for their fellow patients is their life's mission.

Volunteers and officers of Northern Ireland's amazing organ donation family of charities, including NI Kidney Patients' Association, NI Kidney Research Fund (NIKRF), Transplant Sport NI and Kidney Care UK (formerly the British Kidney Patients' Association), have, for many decades, formed the backbone of the promotion of organ donation across Northern Ireland.

As a result of their work, often unseen and in the background, they have funded key health professionals, advanced research into all aspects of transplantation and provided a wrap-around service of support and care for patients and their families.

An ever-present comfort blanket of targeted help, including practical support, from funding home heating oil to organising family Christmas pantos and financial advice to a caring and listening ear.

Doing the heavy lifting while at the same time taking time to focus on the little things is always the preserve of special people who truly care.

They work tirelessly all day and every day to promote a positive message about transplants, to encourage people to sign up to the organ donor register and have that conversation with their loved ones. They also champion the amazing stories of those whose lives have been extended and enhanced as a result of receiving a transplant.

Campaigners so often have a personal link with transplants, and I am thinking about my good friend William Johnston, who waited for 17 years before he received a transplant in January 2014, and John Brown, chairman of NIKRF, whose son Sean received the gift of life from a donor 28 years ago. They are just two of countless volunteers across Northern Ireland whose donations have driven them to help others, to step forward and make a real and lasting difference to the lives of their fellow patients.

I will end off this week by wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year in 2018. Thank you again for all your continued support and messages of encouragement, they do mean the world to me.

Final call for my Christmas Appeal to support the renal units at Daisy Hill and the City Hospital. Thanks to everyone who has donated so far - I will be carrying out the draw for a signed Northern Ireland football shirt on Christmas Eve while I am hooked up to my dialysis machine.

Please have that conversation at Christmas and consider giving the ultimate gift.

You can make a donation to Mark's Christmas Appeal. Enter the Raffle & Dare To Dream at

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