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Mark Dobson: Organ donation has got to be the ultimate Christmas gift

In the eighth of his exclusive weekly columns, Mark Dobson, the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, tells how he has launched a Christmas Appeal to help the dialysis staff who care for him

This week I launched my Christmas appeal. I'm asking people for their help so that I can give back to the amazing health professionals who care for me and my fellow dialysis patients.

I'm raffling off one of my much-cherished Northern Ireland shirts - but more about that later.

This week I attended my first ever boxing match and became a part of Frampton Reborn.

I was so pleased to be treated by mum with a very coveted ticket after I was unhooked from my dialysis machine last week. She always says I'm determined and a fighter, so she felt I should be there.

The atmosphere was certainly electric at the SSE Arena as Carl Frampton treated us to a roller coaster 10-round bout against Mexican Horatio Garcia.

Carl knows just what it's like to be at the top of his profession, like our clinical professionals at all levels in our renal units.

Just like The Jackal they are revered and respected across the world for their dedication to being the best.

That's why I am fundraising for them over the Christmas period - to give back to those who have given to me.

I've set up a Just Giving page where all proceeds will go to help the Kidney Transplant Unit at Belfast City Hospital and the Renal Dialysis Unit at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

This year I have relied on their skill, expertise and dedicated care and this is my way of saying a massive thank you at Christmas.

Each £5 donation will equal an entry into my raffle to win a much-coveted football shirt signed by the Northern Ireland Euro 2016 squad.

The shirt has been signed by manager Michael O'Neill and 16 players and I will draw the winning ticket while I am on dialysis at Daisy Hill on Christmas Eve.

So, just as Northern Ireland sport - in the form of our football team and former two-weight world champion Carl - sends champions around the world to embody all that is best about 'Our Wee Country', I want you to think about our kidney patients and their families this Christmas.

We are the fan base behind our world-renowned kidney team and we rely on them - day in, day out - to keep us well.

It's scary that there are just five short weeks to go to until Christmas. With all the shops starting to put out their Christmas music and our town centres lighting up in festive colours, I will leave you with a final thought.

So many people will be dreaming of the ultimate gift for Christmas - maybe writing it down and sending it up their chimneys to Santa.

However, the gift of life through organ donation is so amazing that for patients it trumps all other presents.

So this Christmas when you are looking and searching for that perfect present, the ultimate stocking filler, remember transplant patients and how a gift which changes and saves lives isn't just for Christmas - it's for life.

Please have that conversation at Christmas and consider giving the ultimate gift.

You can make a donation to Mark's Christmas Appeal. Enter the Raffle & Dare To Dream at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dobsonondialysis

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