Mark Dobson: 'It's hard to accept I cannot help out on the family farm'
In his weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, reflects on the ways his recent kidney transplant have affected how he can do his bit at home
This week I have been enjoying some of the good weather by marvelling at the new life being born on our family farm across the last six weeks in my absence. The first calf this year coincided with the Ireland rugby match on St Patrick's Day - what else could we call it but Rory!
It's difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I can no longer help out on the farm in the way I was able to previously, and I do realise that this is something I will need to come to terms with. I miss it but do enjoy watching what has taken place in my absence.
This week I was in time to see dad calving what turned out to be number 69 calf out of 109 - he still has a way to go!
I couldn't help thinking about the links between all of this new life being born on our farm and the new life being delivered at the transplant unit at Belfast City Hospital.
Looking back six weeks to when mum and I had our live transplant we were number 24 in 2018 - since then, a further 20 transplants have taken place, bringing this year's total to a wonderful 44, and it's still climbing!
Visiting the renal unit, as we have regularly over the past six weeks, it took Professor Gerry Gormley, from Queen's University, Belfast, to point out the significance of a wooden figure - the Hippocrates Sculpture - which takes pride of place in the waiting room.
Loosely depicting the love-child of an alien and a totem pole, this towering figure is fashioned from the wood of one of the original plane trees which were gifted to Professor Mollie McGeown, who founded the renal service in Northern Ireland.
You will remember that mum and I were part of the original team, spearheaded by Professor Gormley and Dr James Douglas, which enabled the Erskine House Tree - located at Belfast City Hospital and Queen's University to be crowned Northern Ireland's Tree of the Year by the Woodland Trust last December.
This may all sound a little wooden but the links between Hippocrates and renal patients and health professionals remains extremely strong to this day, and the seeds which were gifted to Northern Ireland all those decades ago signify the continuing and growing respect in which our renal services are held in countries across the world.
This year we are entering the 50th anniversary of the transplant service and the 60th anniversary of dialysis in Belfast - I bet you didn't know that!
If you are passing the City Hospital and get a chance to pop into the renal unit you can read about the history of the service on their unique feature wall - you can't miss it, it's the one with the massive tree on it!
During the week mum heard the super news that 10 nurses and doctors from the renal and transplant units are going to take part in the Belfast City Marathon to support the work of her charity, Kidney Care UK!
This is a huge boost to the whole team and she will be catching up with them all later this week to hand out their snazzy Kidney Care UK Tech T-shirts which, I have to say, look very smart!
Thanks to all the staff who look after us kidney patients every single day for helping support the charity, it really is terrific news.
You can support Team Kidney Care UK via their Just Giving online donation page - www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamkidneycareukbelfastmarathon2018
Follow Mark on his Wordpress Blog, @DialysisDobson on Twitter and DialysisDobson on Facebook