Mark Dobson: Love is all around - and the greatest gesture is gift of life
In his weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks at how one kind man's selfless action helped repay a great kindness when he was at a low ebb
Tradition has it that Valentine's cards are sent anonymously, adding to the tension and excitement around a pastime which has continuously evolved, like so many other things, with the times.
Organ donation is the ultimate gift of love, one which transforms and saves lives. Just like waiting on that special Valentine's card, with its 'Roses are Red' message inside, pledging to donate is a message of love to future generations so that they might live.
Today, across the country, we send some 25 million Valentine's cards. I want to focus on the clear links which exist between Valentine's Day and organ donation, and the word which immediately springs to mind is 'love'.
Sending a message of love to someone on February 14 stretches its origins back centuries to St Valentine. However, even St Valentine himself would struggle to see past the modern methods by which we send our messages - and indeed, I have to say, the commercialisation which has sprung up around the day which bears his name.
From the advent of the Penny Black to the creation of the e-card, Valentine's Day as a tradition has evolved and spread to many countries across the world. This evolution closely mirrors the spread of organ donation, with the first landmark transplant occurring in 1869 - just 39 years after that first Penny Black.
Launched in 1994, the organ donor register has enabled over 23 million people to express their wishes. And with the advent of registration through driving licence renewals over 58% of new registrations last year came through this route - that's over half a million.
I would like you to think of the organ donor register as sending a Valentine's card to someone you will never know, and along with a message of love you can also save lives. St Valentine's messages of love would take on a whole new meaning if those 25 million cards, or indeed the £1.3bn we spend every year on St Valentine's day, were directed towards the ultimate gift of love - organ donation.
Love comes in so many forms, and this weekend I was so excited to read about a transplant story where Pastor John Greenaway received a kidney from a man he gave shelter to when he had fallen on difficult times.
Pastor Greenaway met Melvin Boyd when Melvin was at a low point, and he and his family gave him a home, transforming his life.
Through organ donation, and to repay this kindness, Melvin changed Pastor Greenaway's life by donating him one of his kidneys. Pastor Greenaway had been on dialysis for a year when, last March, he underwent a live kidney transplant which, as they both said, was "meant to be".
A heart-warming story of love where a new start is given - each man receiving that precious new start from the other in two very different ways.
This week on dialysis I have been thinking about what it means to experience Groundhog Day. Just like in the film, my four-hour sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays come around with frequent regularity - weeks extending into months as time goes by.
However, through love I have hope. Hope that I can once again begin a new life following a kidney transplant from mum. As our tests complete we are hopeful that our transplant can take place and that I can leave dialysis behind.
Still, I can't help thinking of those who are anxiously awaiting a match kidney to be found - those for whom months have extended into years and, in too many cases, years into decades on dialysis.
As I contemplate the coming weeks and months, I think about them and what it would mean to get that call after waiting so long, never losing faith and hanging onto hope. Love conquers all.
So, wherever Cupid's arrow lands for you (and I hope it's not too painful), please think about another anonymous gift of love which we all have in our power to give - the gift of life.
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