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Mark Dobson: Corrie story's a great way to spread transplant awareness

In his weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks at the Belfast Marathon and how Coronation Street is putting kidney donors in the spotlight

It's been a very busy week for us organ donation 'geeks' and advocates as we continue to follow the twists and turns of Coronation Street's very own transplant tale, as well as turning our attention to the green benches of Westminster as MPs supported changing the organ donation laws in England to an opt-out system.

Alongside this, Mum has been very busy putting together a Kidney Care UK charity relay team for the Belfast City Marathon on May 7. Despite getting ready to donate a kidney to me, she's determined to put her best foot forward to help other patients and their families.

To get them onto the starting blocks I visited Hillsborough Forest Park with Mum, Mark Gordon, who raised over £2,400 last year by running the Dublin Marathon for the charity, and advocacy officer William Johnston.

They have set up a Just Giving Page and are encouraging people to get behind their efforts to help support kidney patients and their families, so please, if you can, give generously at their combined Team Kidney Care UK Just Giving page. To do so, follow the link at the end of this article.

Since it was first announced at the beginning of the year, and as life-long Coronation Street fans, Mum and I have followed the highs and lows of the show's live organ donation storyline.

For those of you less familiar with the Mancunian machinations on the streets of Weatherfield, this involves a live kidney donation from Aidan, played by Shayne Ward, to his on-screen half-sister, Carla, played by Alison King.

We have all been watching captivated as Carla has grown in health since she received Aidan's donated kidney. But we have also felt his pain as he struggles post-surgery.

Organ donation is always tinged with emotion and we are delighted that Kidney Care UK has been working alongside the researchers and writers of the soap to advise on and guide this important storyline.

Carla and Aidan's live kidney transplant story is a fantastic way of representing the real-life experiences of transplant donors and recipients to as wide an audience as possible, and of letting people see what it can be like to bring new hope and new life to a loved one through a transplant.

As the charity's Northern Ireland ambassador, Mum was thrilled to see some of their posters in the background shots during some of the hospital scenes. It's always good to keep spreading the positive message that help is available for everyone affected by kidney failure.

Last week, Mum and I were once again surrounded by fellow transplant and dialysis patients at the renal unit at Belfast City Hospital.

We were meeting with a representative of the Human Tissue Authority, which regulates organ donation and transplantation - another formality for us to go through in our own live donation journey.

I have often spoken about the bond which unites transplant and dialysis patients as our journeys criss-cross each other, whether it's meeting up in the hospital waiting rooms or a chance meeting when out and about.

It was lovely for Mum and I to once again meet and chat with patients and also their family members who accompany and support them through what can be confusing and complicated procedures.

Finally, it was superb to see MPs at Westminster uniting to support Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson's Opt-Out Private Member's Bill last Friday morning.

While I was hooked up to dialysis in Daisy Hill, I was glued to the proceedings, listening in to the debate just as I did when Mum's Opt-Out Bill had its second reading at Stormont, although I was in the Official's box on that occasion.

It was, however, refreshing to see opt-out legislation at Westminster uniting parties and politicians from all sides of the House, with the Government's own commitment to this policy advancing in the background under the leadership of Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price MP.

Only time will tell how long we will need to wait in Northern Ireland for a local government to bring forward similar legislation - or perhaps a direct rule minister could make the momentous decision to transform lives in the absence of our own administration.

However reforms are made, I know that an opt-out system for the whole of the UK can and will save lives.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamkidneycareukbelfastmarathon2018

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