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Mark Dobson: Fantastic choirs hit the high notes for charities

In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks towards his very special 'kidneyversary'

On song: Jo-Anne Dobson (third left) with Gordon Speers (second left) and representatives of the Portadown Ladies and Male Voice Choirs present charity cheques to Kidney Care UK and Air Ambulance
On song: Jo-Anne Dobson (third left) with Gordon Speers (second left) and representatives of the Portadown Ladies and Male Voice Choirs present charity cheques to Kidney Care UK and Air Ambulance

We kidney transplant recipients are a very rare breed indeed and totally break the mould when it comes to celebrating our birthdays.

It seems strange to use the word 'birthdays' in the plural, but it's true and I will tell you why. Since I received my first transplant back in 2009 I have celebrated two birthdays: my real one on March 28 and the birthday which marked the beginning of my new life on February 5 - the date I received my first kidney transplant.

Now this year I will pass yet another milestone as I celebrate no fewer than three birthdays in one year. This day next month, March 20, mum and I will celebrate the first anniversary of our live kidney transplant surgery - what we like to call our 'kidneyversary'.

If all these birthdays sound complicated then try and have a chat with some of my fellow hero transplant recipients who have three, four or more transplants - that's a lot of birthday cards. However, the one thing that we all share is that without the generosity of someone else we simply wouldn't be able to celebrate any birthdays at all.

We all know that kidney patients need support and that's where our local charities come in. They work hard every day to raise both funds and awareness for organ donation, encourage people to think about giving the gift of life and to support patients.

Before Christmas, mum attended the annual carol service at St Mark's Church in Portadown. It featured the combined Portadown Ladies and Male Voice Choirs under the expert baton of Gordon Speers and this year the chosen charities to benefit from the generosity of those attending was Kidney Care UK and Air Ambulance NI. Just last week mum met up with Gordon and his wife Margaret, along with Portadown Male Voice Choir secretary Mervyn White and Colleen from the Air Ambulance.

This wonderful event benefited both charities by the amazing sum of £2,175 each. This will make such a difference to kidney patients here and will also support the life-saving emergency service of the Air Ambulance.

Massive thanks to Gordon and to the ladies and gentlemen of the choirs for hitting the high notes to help two wonderful causes which touch the lives of so many families.

You all have such exceptional talents and, combined with the generosity of the massive crowd who attended and thoroughly enjoyed the evening's festive music, this is making a real and lasting difference in our communities.

Speaking of reaching milestones, today marks exactly 11 months since mum and I underwent our transplant surgery at Belfast City Hospital.

Watching the True North documentary last week took both of us back in time as we relived our experience as well as catching a glimpse for the first time of what it looked like from behind the camera lens.

It may have seemed a little surreal at the time to be followed around by a camera crew, especially when we were under the care of the wonderful doctors and nurses, but we were absolutely determined to ensure that we played our part in continuing to promote the life-saving message.

When Stephen Watson was following us around we were either preparing for surgery, undergoing our procedures in hospital or recovering at home on the farm.

If by any chance you missed it you can still catch up on the BBC iPlayer by searching for True North or Life on the List.

Looking back it seems like a complete blur to us, but as we rapidly head towards our first 'kidneyversary' it's lovely to look back, to think about the amazing people who cross our paths every single day and to prepare to celebrate many more milestones in life thanks to organ donation.

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