Mark Dobson: So many people are working to improve life for kidney patients
In his weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, meets up with some of the powerful advocates aiming to make life better for transplant patients
Last week was a busy one for me - the first busy week post-transplant surgery, which is a really good sign! I am feeling great and so thankful that I have the ability to return to as normal a life as I can. On Wednesday I had my first outing in a crowded environment, but what farmer can ever miss the Balmoral Show - it's traditional!
However, I was really proud to join dad on the Marks & Spencer stand as he, for the second year running, picked up one of their 'Farming for the Future' awards.
He is the regional winner of the Prince's Countryside Fund M&S Farm Resilience Award - a bit of a mouthful, but it means he produces his beef to the highest quality and this has been recognised alongside going that extra mile to support local communities.
Dad works very hard and it was great for us both to join fellow farmers also taking in the sights and sounds of a busy Balmoral Show in glorious sunshine! Before I get any messages, I had my factor 50 on - renal patients always need to keep out of the sun or make sure we are well covered up.
The next day I was privileged to make the journey down to the renal unit at Belfast City Hospital with mum. I can just hear you wondering why it would be any different from the countless other visits I have been making there across the past nine weeks; however, after my usual bloods and appointments this one was a very different visit.
I was attending a meeting of the Renal and Transplant Alliance, which brings together kidney charities to work towards the best outcomes for kidney patients and their families. It was lovely to catch up with so many powerful advocates for renal patients who work across Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland to improve the quality of life for kidney patients.
Under the chairmanship of William Johnston it was great to work through a wide range of topics focused on the care and support provided to renal patients, dialysis patients and kidney transplant patients.
We had the combined expertise of representatives from charities Kidney Care UK, NI Kidney Research, NI Kidney Patients Association, the Children's Kidney Fund NI and our guests the Irish Kidney Association.
The topics covered included an update on the Opt-Out system in Europe and the effect of Brexit, renal counselling and wellbeing support, the upcoming home dialysis roadshows and support for future activity weekends for young adults affected by kidney failure.
These are vital topics which are being addressed by local charities and organisations committed to delivering the best outcomes for kidney patients, and mum and I are really looking forward to catching up with everyone again at our future meetings and what we can all achieve together.
Earlier in the week mum, as well as spending time with my brother Elliott in London, got the chance to meet up with the dedicated team at Kidney Care UK headquarters in Alton.
Since February she has been working hard as their local ambassador and was impressed by their long history as the former British Kidney Patients Association who have been keeping it renal through the decades.
Amongst their achievements they launched the first school education pack on kidney disease, partnered with the Royal College of GPs to improve diagnosis and treatment at primary care level and relaunched as Kidney Care UK last year.
Charities work incredibly hard to keep a public focus on the needs of patients and it's a privilege for me to stand with them in support of kidney patients everywhere.