Mark Dobson on the 12 months that have totally changed his life
Transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks back on a busy year that he's recorded in his weekly column
It's exactly one year since I started writing in the Belfast Telegraph about what life is like to be a dialysis patient, my own experience as a lifelong kidney patient and now double transplant recipient.
Life for me has moved on in so many different ways over the past 12 months and it has been wonderful to meet with and help to promote organ donation alongside so many amazing people with whom I share this journey.
In writing this week's column I thought I would take a look back at what I wrote this time last year when I was a dialysis patient at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry. Back then I was just two months after surgery to remove my kidney which I had received in 2009.
It was a difficult time for me coming to terms with losing my precious gift, fitting in with the restrictions and rigours of dialysis, and also not knowing if or when I would ever be released from it.
As it was to turn out that release came in the form of a living kidney donor transplant from mum earlier this year and it has been truly amazing for me to be able to continue to chronicle our journey through the many twists and turns of the past year through this column.
Interestingly, in my first article I talked about my diet and how being a dialysis patient had affected what I could and couldn't eat and drink. Looking back it seems surreal that I described how meeting with my dietitian Martina just a few days after surgery I was given a lengthy list of dos and don'ts.
Scary stuff indeed but this is the reality of life for dialysis patients who have an extremely restricted diet and who need to always be careful.
Frankly, boiling it all down (no pun intended), it meant that all my food had to be cooked from fresh and I couldn't have fast food or chocolate as anything other than a rare weekly treat.
The consequences of not following this advice, which would initially involve a stern talking to by the amazing doctors and nurses, would mean dialysis couldn't take place because of high levels of potassium. Thankfully this didn't happen to me, but it's all too easy to forget or not realise that tasty treat could tip you over the edge into the danger zone.
Now, post-transplant and with the dialysis restrictions behind me, things aren't just as stringent. However, once a kidney patient always a kidney patient, and I still need to keep a very careful eye on my diet because of my medications.
Thanks again to the Belfast Telegraph for giving me this wonderful opportunity to spread the good news about organ donation and transplantation. I also want to thank the countless people who get in touch with me to wish us well, to find out more about what it's like to be a kidney patient and to share their stories.
It's always lovely to hear the moving stories of how organ donation and the gift of life has brought new hope and new life to so many families and especially heart-warming to hear the wonderful praise for our wonderful lifesaving health professionals.
To close this week I will quote a line from my first column last October: "I totally get that not everyone reading this can comprehend what it's like for renal patients like me to be hooked up to a machine in order to live. But I've previously described my life as a quirky journey and want to get across, through my column and social media, the many humorous aspects of being on dialysis and waiting for a kidney."
I hope as I continue my 'quirky journey' that I'm helping to both inspire and to keep the conversation around organ donation going - a conversation which saves lives. I should know, it saved mine.