Mark Dobson: IFA on the ball helping us spread the word on organ donation
In his weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, recalls 'dreaming bigger' during an amazing trip to Windsor Park to record an inspirational interview
After my regular appointment at the renal unit last week, mum and I made a detour along Donegall Avenue heading to Windsor Park.
It seemed strange not heading directly home as we usually do, but we were heading to the holy of holies for a Northern Ireland fan - and as all of you will know I am literally 'obsessive' in my support for the team.
Ironically my consultant Aisling Courtney mentioned at the beginning of my appointment that my blood pressure was high which, for a fleeting moment, caused concern until mum explained that we were going to Windsor Park afterwards and that was the obvious explanation.
Another team that I won't be able to join, however, this year is dad's silage team on the farm which is 'making hay while the sun shines' across Co Armagh as we prepare the silage for our cattle.
All I can do is look on as our New Hollands are prepared and getting to work across our fields as they bring in the first cut. Every cloud has a silver lining though as at least I won't have to do the heavy lifting of covering the silo with half tyres any more.
Leaving behind the fields and getting back to the pitch, I have only missed one Northern Ireland home match and that was when I was having my transplant - although I was looking down on the match from the 11th floor of the City Hospital which has to count for something.
While I have done my fair share of 'dreaming bigger' with my team over the years with a lot of crossed fingers, toes and frantic shouting from the stands, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be sitting in Windsor Park, a former 'fan of the month', and speaking about what a difference organ donation has made to my life.
The 'Dream Bigger' motto of the team could almost become the motto of everyone waiting on a transplant - every day they dream of living a new life post-transplant.
Arriving through the gates of the East Stand entrance we were the guests of the IFA who had invited us along to promote our passion - organ donation.
While I avidly support Northern Ireland, I am also the recipient of amazing support from the IFA, the team and the fans, which has helped me so much through my transplant surgery and beyond.
We entered an absolutely deserted stadium (and given the amount of sand it resembled a desert too) where we were taking part in a little bit of filming with their communications team.
Mum and I were interviewed about the impact of the support we received from the team and the fans while I was on dialysis, over our transplant surgery period and during recovery.
However, it really means so much to me that they are also getting behind organ donation in a massive way by allowing mum and I to promote the message among my fellow fans as well.
I got the chance to mention all the amazing support I have been receiving from the Green and White Army, whether its tweets, pms or emails and, of course, that wonderful good luck video message sent to me from Niall McGinn. Something I will never forget!
Mum also spoke about her new role as Kidney Care UK ambassador in which she is getting out and about across Northern Ireland to share our journey with so many people and organisations. Encouraging them to think about organ donation and to get behind those amazing charities and volunteers who are helping to support patients every single day.
As mum said at the end of the interview: "We all have it within us to be a lifesaver, you can help someone live after your death. The more people that sign up to the organ donor register and have that conversation, the more hope it gives people and means that not everyone is sentenced to a lifetime on dialysis."
Organ donation has saved my life twice, first in 2009 and then again from mum just 10 weeks ago - so I should know that everyone has it within us to be a lifesaver.
You can watch the interview with Mark and his mother Jo-Anne by following the below link: https://www.irishfa.com/news/2018/may/kidney-patient-mark-dobson-praises-support-from-gawa