Dialysis patient Mark Dobson says 'last year has helped me realise how lucky I have been'
In his exclusive weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks back at the highs and lows he has faced with his health over the past 12 months
As we have now passed through the door and into a brand new year I have been taking some time to think back over the ups and downs of 2017 - certainly a momentous 12 months for me.
It was a year which heralded major change in my life, ultimately resulting in me being hooked up for three four-hour dialysis sessions each week as I no longer have any kidney function.
It all began precisely a year ago in January 2017 when I started a series of lengthy tests and procedures which, over a few months, would ultimately show my kidney function was beginning to fail. I have been a lifelong renal patient and received a kidney transplant back in 2009 - I was told at the time that as I was so young I would likely need two or three transplants in my lifetime.
However, the phone call which we received on July 11 to confirm that my transplanted kidney had failed and would need to be removed left us feeling totally numb and facing a future of uncertainty. Even though I have been in that position before, you are still left with worry, waiting and many unanswered questions.
Comfort, however, came from the fact that we were in the hands of amazing professionals who, it is no exaggeration to say, have become an extended part of our family.
Things moved rather quickly from then on when I underwent surgery on August 1 at Belfast City Hospital to remove my kidney, with my first dialysis session following almost immediately after. It's a scary thing for anyone to go through, especially when you are watching a renal nurse connecting you up to a machine for the very first time.
There followed a series of weeks where I was in and out of hospital - with a few complications - but eventually the routine of dialysis dawned and I settled into a regular pattern of attending Daisy Hill Hospital on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for my four-hour sessions.
Like all dialysis patients I am placed on a extremely restricted diet which cuts out lots of things I like - and a few things I don't like as well. It's important for me to stay as healthy as possible and to keep my potassium levels low. This was my choice of new year's resolution this year and I'm sticking to it ... so far.
I am also on a daily tablet routine - one of my nurses once said that if you shake a renal patient they rattle, and it's true.
With strict routines like these it can so often feel like groundhog day for renal patients.
I receive dialysis in a hospital ward with three fellow renal patients who are all hooked up at the same time. We enjoy each other's company while we endure these sessions which are keeping us all alive.
Our nurses and doctors keep an expert eye on us all to make sure that everything is running smoothly and are being especially careful with me as I have the hope of receiving a kidney from my mum - fingers crossed - next month.
While I have been looking back and describing my journey over the past year I know that I am only one of thousands of dialysis patients who could recount similar stories. Kidney failure can touch the lives of so many people, changing lives and dictating routines which were unthinkable before.
I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I have the opportunity of receiving a kidney from my mum, but this is not the reality for everyone waiting for a life-saving transplant and this makes me sad. Throughout the year I have made friends with so many patients who have been waiting many years for that elusive transplant and whose wait, given that availability is lower than demand, is likely to continue.
Thank you again to everyone who helped make my Christmas Appeal such a terrific success. Your help will make a difference for dialysis patients both at Belfast City Hospital and also in Daisy Hill.
That's it for this week - an exercise in looking back over the year that was 2017. I hope that you have a very happy and prosperous 2018 and remember to have that all-important conversation with your loved ones… make it your new year's resolution to be a life-saver.