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How everybody can sow the seeds of new life by becoming an organ donor

In the fourth of his exclusive weekly columns, Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, tells of a very special tree which means so much to those who are involved in renal transplants

What a busy week it's been since I last penned my column. I was in Daisy Hill for an extra day this week to have a procedure on my haemo line - nothing ever runs smoothly with my lines!

My consultant, Dr Neal Morgan, has replaced it with a new line, which we hope will mean a bit less pain and will last out until hopefully mum is able to donate her kidney to me in February at the earliest.

Last Wednesday was a particularly hectic day.

Straight after dialysis, Mum and I hot-footed it to Belfast to take part in a very special event which brought together all strands of the 'transplant family' like never before.

We were at the celebratory event for the Erskine House Tree at Queen's University - a living and growing symbol of hope for all transplant patients - which I've mentioned previously has created so many everlasting memories.

A descendant of the famous 'Plane Tree of Kos', our Belfast tree was planted from seeds donated by Dr Dimitrios Oreopoulos over 50 years ago.

He was then a young Greek renal doctor training under the famous Professor Mollie McGeown, to whom all renal patients and health professionals in Northern Ireland owe an everlasting debt of gratitude.

I was so honoured to be asked by Dr Gerry Gormley to make a presentation to Dr Oreopoulos' son and grandson, George and Dimitrios, who had made the journey from Toronto to close the loop on something their father and grandfather began all those years ago.

They say that a tree with strong roots can weather any storm, and as Ophelia had been and gone we gathered under its branches.

They stretch out so far that renal patients, donor families, transplant consultants, nephrologists, nurses, charity volunteers, academics and many, many more all gathered together as one 'transplant family' - resolute and strong in our support for organ donation and its life-renewing and lifesaving power.

Mum was part of the dedicated Queen's University and Belfast Health Trust team promoting this amazing tree to become Woodland Trust Tree of the Year.

Voting is now closed and we have to wait until December for the result (we couldn't even coax a hint out of their director, Patrick Cregg MBE, who joined us) so thanks again to everyone who put their shoulder to the wheel in what was a truly amazing effort. And it will need a truly amazing effort to get Northern Ireland through the play-offs and into the World Cup finals!

Michael O'Neill and his boys will need more than Swiss watch efficiency to send the cuckoo back into the clock!

I have already secured our home tickets and I'm sorting out the arrangements for Granda and my cousin Alex to help me get to Basel - dialysis or not, I'm as determined as ever not to miss a single Northern Ireland game!

As I write, I'm hooked up at Daisy Hill and can hear the nurses beginning to 'release' some of my fellow dialysis patients. That means that John, Matthew, Brendan and I don't have too long to go now - but I'll leave you with a final few thoughts.

It just goes to show that, as George Oreopoulos told us all on Wednesday, we should never underestimate the importance of a small gesture of thanks which can grow into something great long after we are gone.

If, like me, you have been inspired by the story of the Erskine House Tree, please consider turning over a new leaf and talking to your loved ones about how you too can leave a long and lasting legacy.

Belfast Telegraph

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