Mark Dobson: Visit tinged with sadness as a friend had passed away
In his weekly column, kidney transplant recipient Mark Dobson, son of former MLA Jo-Anne, talks of a bittersweet visit to Daisy Hill renal unit and efforts to raise awareness of kidney disease
Things are continuing to slowly resemble normal life for me as I get back to doing some of the things I could do before - and it's all thanks to my new kidney which I received from mum just 11 weeks ago.
My regular trips to the renal unit at Belfast City Hospital continue, as do the positive assessments of my doctors and the team, which I am eternally grateful for.
Last week I made my first trip back to the ward at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry where I spent seven months of my life on dialysis after losing my donated kidney last August. Mum and I have been in regular contact with both John and Matthew, who received their dialysis in the ward beside me, and it was lovely to get the chance to chat with them again, and to call in and let them, and all the nurses, see how I am after my transplant.
However, it was a visit which was tinged with sadness for me as our fourth dialysis companion, Brendan, passed away since my transplant. A life-sentence on dialysis can be just that, and I am always reminded of the need to bring hope to those for whom dialysis has become a seemingly never-ending way of life.
That's why promoting organ donation is so important to us - while dialysis is a lifeline for so many patients, 30,000 to be precise across the country, it also places a rigid reality on the lives of those who need it.
That's why my second visit to Daisy Hill Hospital, which took place on Tuesday, was so important because it highlighted the possibilities available to dialysis patients of PD (peritoneal dialysis), Home HD (hemodialysis) and self-care HD dialysis. Sounds really complicated but, in a nutshell, it's the ability for dialysis patients to have the option of hospital-based or home-based dialysis.
I was joining mum and Kidney Care UK advocacy officer William Johnston, both flying the flag for Kidney Care UK, at the Home Therapies Roadshow which is jointly organised by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust Renal Team and the charities Kidney Care UK, NI Kidney Patients Association, NI Kidney Research Fund and the Altnagelvin Renal Support Group .
You may remember that while I was on dialysis I talked about the constant struggles I had with my PD line, which they put in for me during surgery back in August last year and through which I could have the possibility of transferring from hospital to home dialysis.
Ultimately, it wasn't to be for me as there were quite a few complications, including getting the line installed twice, but I had my heart set on it and knew what it would mean for me to be able to have dialysis at home in the evenings rather than making those three early-morning regimented journeys to Daisy Hill.
However, I use my experience as an encouragement rather than a negative, as I really saw the benefits home dialysis would bring to me and my family, but of course I would have missed the craic and friendship in Daisy Hill if it had worked out. We always have to remember that for those dialysis patients who are waiting on a transplant, the option of switching to home dialysis can be a welcome change in their daily routines. I know it's not for everyone, but it is always good to have an alternative option.
It's about making sure people have the right information to be able to make the choice if it's appropriate for them.
Daisy Hill holds a very special place in my heart and I was delighted it was the second of five of these important patient-centred roadshows at units across Northern Ireland, including Knockbreda Wellbeing Centre last Sunday, Omagh Hospital, today, Altnagelvin Hospital, June 10, and Antrim Area Hospital, also June 10.
It was lovely to see everyone working together on Tuesday to help promote options for patients - from the wonderful clinical team to patients on home dialysis who were advocating and explaining the benefits. A special well done to William Johnston of Kidney Care UK for leading the way with a series of roadshows across Northern Ireland - he's always working hard to help kidney patients.
That's it for another busy week - the first cut of the silage is all gathered in on the farm and I was able to watch the tractors going in and out of the yard as they busied about their work, both night and day!
I've also found a novel new way of keeping an eye on the cattle for dad - I've been driving down through the sheds to check the cattle in our JCB Quad ... always taking care of myself. Catch you next week.