Mark Dobson: I remember our frantic drive through the snow for surgery
In his weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, remembers a very special date when his life was transformed thanks to one family's huge generosity
This is a very special week for me as I mark an important anniversary - it's nine years since I received my first kidney transplant and all because of the selfless generosity of a family I will never know.
Because of the kidney problems I had since I was five weeks old, and when I turned 13, I entered end-stage renal failure, which meant I needed a transplant. I will never, ever forget the telephone call mum received in the middle of the night on February 5, 2009, when she was told that a match kidney had been found for me.
I don't know how she managed to let me sleep, but she knew it was best for me to be fit and ready for surgery the next day. Early in the morning she told me the amazing news and I remember like it was yesterday our frantic drive through the snow to the Royal Children's Hospital in Belfast to undergo my surgery.
My kidney was flown across from the mainland and because of the snow it didn't arrive in Northern Ireland until around 4pm in the afternoon. I then had six hours to wait until the doctors had fully cross-matched and tested the kidney to ensure it was a match for me.
Only then could my surgery, and my new life, begin!
February 5 and 6 are dates which are etched on my mind and which we never fail to celebrate, as my transplant gave me back my life. A family, at a time of unimaginable grief, made the decision to donate their loved one's organs and through that wonderful gift I received a new kidney.
Sadly, I lost that kidney back in August last year, as it had begun to fail from January, but that didn't stop me marking what I have always called my second birthday.
Organ donation is truly a gift of life, and as anyone who has received a transplant will tell you, it is something which you live your life to honour, to remember and to inspire others to become life-savers.
On Saturday, mum and I were on the gates at Mourneview Park in Lurgan to raise awareness and collect on behalf of charity Kidney Care UK. We braved the rain and the cold with our team of collectors and were totally overwhelmed by the amazing support from Glenavon FC and Dungannon Swifts fans as their teams met in an Irish Cup match.
It was lovely to get the chance to chat with so many people, including liver recipient Daniel and long-term kidney recipient Noel, who is also a Glenavon FC director. Mum and I would like to thank Eddie Drury and his fellow members of the Glenavon board for their generosity in allowing us to collect and raise awareness for a cause so dear to our hearts. Thanks also to everyone who donated - donations save lives.
Speaking of Kidney Care UK I am absolutely delighted that mum is taking up a new role as their Northern Ireland Charity Ambassador. The charity is the UK's leading kidney patient support charity and in the form of William Johnston, a legend for all kidney patients in Northern Ireland, is helping to support patients across the local health trusts every single day.
Mum and I have supported so many terrific charities and have the privilege of knowing so many amazing people who have been touched by organ donation. I have always talked about how close the members of our transplant family are and it has been lovely for mum to receive so many good wishes as she begins an exciting new role.
A special shout out to all those regular column readers who came up and said hello to me before the match on Saturday.
It was really great to hear your own stories and links with the transplant family - once again thanks for your generosity and continued support.