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Mark Dobson: A lifesaving week and my first post-transplant match

In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, pays tribute to organ donation campaigners

Big game: Mark Dobson at his first post-transplant football match watching Northern Ireland v Bosnia with his cousin Alex and grandad Eric
Big game: Mark Dobson at his first post-transplant football match watching Northern Ireland v Bosnia with his cousin Alex and grandad Eric

I want to start this week by saying a massive 'thank you' to everyone who took part in this year's Organ Donation Week. It was a special week for me in many ways as mum and I continued to film with Stephen Watson for his BBC Northern Ireland documentary Life on the List and I also got the chance to join my beloved Green and White Army for my first post-transplant match.

Each event held as part of this special week will, in its own way, touch the hearts of so many people, making them think about organ donation and consider joining the Organ Donor Register.

More than 34,000 people signed the register during Organ Donation Week and I hope that with all those efforts even more lifesaving decisions will be made this year!

With the weather set fair dad had started to harvest the barley on our farm on Tuesday just as we had some very special visitors back with us again, BBC NI's Stephen Watson and his super team to film their documentary about organ donation. It was great to catch up with Stephen again on Saturday as I attended my first post-transplant Northern Ireland match and although the result against Bosnia and Herzegovina wasn't what we had been hoping for, or indeed what I predicted here last week, it was amazing to be back in the atmospheric arena of Windsor Park amongst friends and supporting my beloved Green and White Army.

When I was just a few days post-surgery, I was only able to gaze down from the 11th floor of the City Hospital on the last match. Because mum was a match for me, I get to be able to attend once again.

I would like to give special mention to a few events which took place during Organ Donation Week. Our superhero 'caped crusaders' under the watchful eye of (and bravely accompanied by) William Johnston and his team were abseiling down the side of the Europa Hotel to raise awareness of organ donation.

It's such a marvellous sight to see donors, recipients, donor families, medical professionals and those connected with the organ donation family taking part as an amazing and brave celebration of organ donation.

Moving through the week we came to Friday and a very special event, for a very special little boy, at Belfast City Hall. In July I talked about how mum and I met up with little Daithi MacGabhan and his parents Mairtin and Seph. Daithi, who at just 22 months is the life and soul of any room, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and is urgently waiting for a new heart.

Through their superb 'Donate4Daithi' campaign they have been working extremely hard to promote the Organ Donor Register and to support their campaign and mark Organ Donation Week, the Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey hosted a reception at City Hall.

A massive thanks to Mairtin for the kind invite to mum to join and take part in your special day and we were delighted to be joined by mum's colleagues from Kidney Care UK, policy director Fiona Loud, William Johnston and Andrew Cromwell.

On Sunday, mum travelled to Castle Ward Estate in Strangford to join kidney recipient Stephen Nicholl and his wife Christine as they held a charity horse trek and dog walk in aid of Kidney Care UK and the NI Kidney Patients' Association.

On her way home mum attended a service of thanksgiving held by NI Kidney Research Fund at the Parish Church of St Patrick, Drumbeg. The service brought together the entire transplant family and was a fitting way to bring to a close a week of events with a lifesaving message at its very core.

Belfast Telegraph


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