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Mark Dobson: We can be dreamers, and think of a life free from our dialysis

In his weekly column, dialysis patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, shares some very exciting news for fellow kidney patients who have been anxiously awaiting a donor

According to Robert Burns 'the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry', but that must never stop us making plans for the future. When it comes to dreaming and making plans few can ever rival us transplant patients who must hold onto hope - there, I've said it and I'm not ashamed. I am proud to be a dreamer.

On Sunday evening, Portadown man Keith Anderson took to Facebook to tell the world the amazing news that his sister Paula was about to donate a kidney to him. Movingly, and sitting next to Paula in hospital, Keith explained that he couldn't put into words what it means to him but said 'because Paula gives, I get to live'.

Prompting hundreds of responses and messages of goodwill from across Northern Ireland and further afield, Keith and his amazing sister Paula are so much in my thoughts as they undergo a live transplant under the wonderful care of the superheroes of the 11th floor of Belfast City Hospital.

Newry boasts a similar story of hope in the form of the lovely Lynette who receives her dialysis sessions in a ward close to mine at Daisy Hill. As mum found out on her regular rounds chatting with neighbouring patients, Lynette has joined the kidney transplant pool where live donors and patients are allocated to each other through a process of matching.

I truly hope this brings Lynette the transplant which I know she is dreaming of and, like so many of us, never ever gives up hope that her plans for the future will be realised.

Just two fantastic stories of hope from fellow transplant patients and that's this week alone. I look forward to hearing about many more moving stories throughout 2018 - it is always an amazing boost to hear that a fellow patient is either preparing for or has received a coveted transplant.

Turning to my own transplant journey, mum and I have been attending regular meetings with those superheroes I mentioned earlier, including our super surgeon Tim Brown.

We are being so well cared for and while things get even more 'real' as we progress into the New Year and our transplant moves ever closer, we need to finalise a few more tests before the date becomes clearer for us.

Throughout this process, which involves meeting amongst others surgeons, anaesthetists, live donor coordinators and renal nurses, we are given an even greater insight into the wonderful legacy of the late Professor Molly McGeown. She founded the kidney unit at Belfast City Hospital and as her portrait looks down on us as we wait on our appointments, I wonder if even she would recognise the amazing life-saving and life-transforming work which goes on every single day.

Things have moved on massively since Professor McGeown's pioneering developments led her to be named one of the 50 women who had contributed most to the success of the NHS. When we hear about the continuing achievements of the wonderful staff in our renal unit, we need to remember that the cornerstones of their work were laid down by a lady whose name and legacy continues to loom large on the 11th floor of the City Hospital.

While patients and our families hold onto hope and make those all-important plans for the future it is the dedicated staff who make miracles come true. Through their skill, aided by the constant support of charities, volunteers and advocates who drive forward research and innovation, we can be dreamers, we can have a plan for a better future and think of a life free from the rigorous dialysis routines.

Transplants truly transform lives - not just of patients but of their families and those closest to them.

I've said it before and I'll never tire of saying it - everyone has it within them to become a life-saver. So please help to make those dreams come true and have that conversation with your loved ones.

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