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Mark Dobson: Despite sadness at friend's loss there's hope in Opt-Out

In his weekly column, Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, reflects on the passing of a fellow dialysis patient from Daisy Hill hospital and why there is still light on the horizon

Our Monday morning dialysis sessions often follow a set routine, kicking off at 8.15am at Daisy Hill hospital in Newry when the doors are opened and we head to our hospital beds.

There is a banter and a camaraderie with everyone talking about their weekends and, on so many occasions, a wave of euphoria sweeps over us as we hear about the news that a fellow patient has received a transplant. That's another new life begun, a life freed from dialysis and someone who will not be joining us any more as we walk through those doors to our hospital beds.

However, on Monday morning at Daisy Hill the mood was very different. Over the weekend one of our fellow patients had sadly passed away. This lady was a familiar figure at Daisy Hill and had been 17 years on dialysis. The news hung over us as we started our regular dialysis sessions while digesting the news that one of our own was not with us this morning.

So, with sadness in mind I want to focus on an opportunity for renewed hope. The movement to deliver an 'opt-out' system of organ donation across the United Kingdom takes a step further this week at Westminster.

Given the vibes in the national media this is an issue which is likely to unite opinion across the Westminster parties, a concept sadly as illusive as a John Lewis store here at home!

At the risk of starting a family dispute with mum, who pioneered Northern Ireland's first Opt-Out Bill, I want to nail my colours firmly to the mast as being resolutely pro 'opt-out'!

The proposed system would alter the law which would mean that people are considered to have agreed to be an organ donor if they die, unless they have opted-out of the system.

This week Parliament will get the chance, free from a whip, to debate and vote on the second reading of a Labour MP's Private Member's Bill - which in tandem with the Government's own commitment moves forward a law which has the potential to make a massive difference to all transplant patients, both now and in the future.

However, this debate is confined to England. So, I hear you asking, what about the other regions of the United Kingdom - where are they in relation to an opt-out system? Wales adopted opt-out legislation back in 2015, the Scottish government has announced that it will bring forward a Bill and at home we haven't had a Health Minister in place since March last year.

While I acknowledge there's a debate to be had around the opt-out system I believe that the very debate itself unites the transplant family, as any move which increases public awareness around what it means to be given a new life through receiving the ultimate gift of love through a transplant is a positive thing.

Talking calmly through an issue which is tinged with so much emotion, and not shying away from that emotion, is 100 times better than taking two entrenched positions, which means stalemate wins.

Stalemate when it comes to transplant patients means that more people, like the many, many friends I have made while on dialysis - friends like John - remain waiting, worrying and hoping upon hope that a match organ will be available for them. In John's case this is eight agonising years, taking its toll both on him, his family and loved ones.

While I know that as a kidney patient my focus is resolutely renal, new law and new hope extends through all transplants and I will be watching closely as the debate unfolds in England.

Thanks again to everyone for all your messages and support as I continue to write about my journey and experiences while I am a dialysis patient. Just before Christmas I was delighted to get an email confirming that my blogging had been rated one of the top 25 Dialysis Blogs and Websites for Kidney Failure Patients.

It wouldn't be possible without your continued readership and support which means so much to me.

Belfast Telegraph

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