Mark Dobson:Trip to London was great way to mark eventful 12 months
In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, looks backs on the roller coaster year since receiving the news that he needed a second new kidney
This week marks a poignant milestone for me - it is one year on from the phone call in which my consultant confirmed to mum and I that I would need to have my kidney removed.
I had been undergoing checks since January last year, but it was on July 11 that Dr Aisling Courtney phoned to let me know that life as I knew it was about to change and I would need to lose my transplanted kidney which I had received in 2009.
One year ago was a difficult time for us as we came to terms with losing a kidney which I received because of the generosity of a family I will never know.
As we all marked the 70th birthday of the NHS on July 5, I found myself wondering how many millions of birthday celebrations across the country would not have happened if it were not for their dedicated medical professionals at all levels of the service.
We all have every reason to celebrate a seven-decade long legacy of returning loved ones to their families, of breaking medical glass ceilings and leading research which makes conditions manageable and medicines more successful.
I have so much to be thankful for as the NHS has managed my kidney problems from birth to this day, including two kidney transplants, years of assessments and medication along with seven months on dialysis. Thank you NHS, thank you to the everyday heroes who save lives day in, day out.
They say that travel broadens the mind - well, it was certainly a wonderful experience for me to be able to take my very first trip after surgery. Mum and I travelled across to London for a few days of the three S's - no, it wasn't sun, sea and sand but rather sun, sightseeing and shopping.
As it was my first time to leave Northern Ireland since I received my new kidney back in March we were extra cautious about our travel plans - we arranged our flights and travel outside peak hours and we were also conscious about the need to travel with all my medications in my carry-on luggage.
Thankfully my consultant Dr Aisling Courtney had given us a letter confirming my need for all my tablets, lotions and potions and suitably armed with all we needed we boldly set off from Waringstown on Wednesday morning.
Ironically we need not have feared as we got a 'High 5' and 'fair play to ya' welcome at Dublin Airport when we explained going through security screening that I needed my package of tablets as we were both 15 weeks post kidney surgery!
Arriving in an absolutely sweltering London - not just as sunny as the fields of Waringstown but nonetheless warmer - we wasted no time in planning out our time to make sure we packed in as much as we could into the break.
Mum and I reached a compromise as her bucket list included Westfield, Liberty, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols etc, etc, while I wanted to see the sights of Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Westminster and Covent Garden. Perhaps miraculously and thankfully we managed to fit it all in.
How, I can hear you asking, did we possibly get to do this in such a short break? Well, the answer is simply by the power of Uber! I was very reliant on my new App on my phone as it's one of the best ways to travel around the capital to fit in as much in as possible. I also use my phone to remind me when I need to take my different doses of tablets which ensures that despite where I was, or what sights I was taking in, my medication remained unaffected.
No one in London could have been left unaffected, even if they wanted to, by the England v Sweden World Cup match which was being beamed across every television in every shopping centre, public place and public house in the entire city.
Being a proud Northern Ireland fan, and you know I haven't mentioned that 'criminal' refereeing decision before, I couldn't help but join in the banter and cheer on as the team brought everyone together through the power of sport.
Sport has also been instrumental in supporting kidney patients through a recent golf tournament and just before mum and I jetted off to London we called in with Gordon Best, who is regional director of the Quarry Products Association in Northern Ireland.
We were saying a massive thank you for his amazing support for the work of the charity Kidney Care UK as he held his annual golf day last month choosing the charity to be joint beneficiary alongside the Friends of the Cancer Centre.
In total their amazing efforts on the golf course raised £4,534 divided equally between both charities - another fantastic example of an industry getting behind causes which make a positive difference to the lives of people battling conditions beyond their control. Well done, Gordon.