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'We must ensure that kidney care remains a global game'

In his weekly column, transplant recipient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, explains how vital European co-operation is when treating dialysis patients

It's a small world after all. As the World Cup kicked off this week in Russia it has made me think about the close links we all have with countries across the world and what this means for dialysis and renal patients. Whether it's brothers in Belgium or aunts in Australia, the world is an increasingly smaller place where everyone is just a Skype call away from each other.

Similarly when it comes to organ donation, transplantation and dialysis, the links between national health services are also strengthening and improving - all to the benefit of kidney patients around the world.

Before I go on I couldn't not mention the cruel way in which Northern Ireland's entrance into this World Cup was blocked by a disastrous refereeing decision when the team played Switzerland at Windsor Park. If you remember back in November I got the chance, when I was still on dialysis, to join my fellow Green and White Army fans and travel to Switzerland for the second leg in Basel.

While I truly wish the Belfast decision was different, and I was possibly writing my column in Russia now, I want to focus on life-saving decisions instead.

When I travelled to Basel, I was able to do this between dialysis sessions as I was flying in and out on the same day. However, dialysis patients are able to travel to countries across the world because of arrangements which are put in place between national health services to allow them to have their dialysis sessions while they are abroad. Treatment which incidentally isn't covered by travel insurance as the need for dialysis remains constant.

I understand from Kidney Care UK that the government is currently working to ensure that access to healthcare in the EU countries continues unaffected post-Brexit - however, this must be guaranteed especially when it comes to dialysis patients and I know the charity is working hard alongside others to make the case.

With a question mark currently hanging over what impact Brexit will have on the European Health Insurance Card, which affects the health rights of everyone travelling to any EU country, it must be remembered that this also ensures that dialysis patients are able to receive their sessions when they are away from home. While borders may change, the needs of patients will not and it's important that these are both remembered and respected.

I know what it meant for me as a dialysis patient to be able to feel the freedom of travelling away from home, even if just for a day in my case.

I was able to follow my team and, with my Granda Eric looking after me from leaving our front door to returning home, to feel as normal as possible despite needing to be hooked up to my dialysis machine once again just a few short hours after touching down again in Northern Ireland.

I know so many long-term dialysis patients who travel either for work or pleasure with their machines, with the fluids and other materials being delivered to them abroad.

Many others rely on an arrangement with a hospital close to where they stay to be able to have their dialysis.

Renal patients benefit from the advances in transplantation and dialysis which have been made and continue to be made every single day and these cannot be placed in danger - especially where they rely on partnerships and trials involving global experts.

Co-operation among healthcare professionals has led to so many breakthroughs in treatment and care and in Northern Ireland we occupy a respected place as global leaders in kidney research and care.

Back at home last Saturday saw the final new calf born on Dobson farm for this year - that's 102 in total.

It's been lovely to see the cows and their new-born calves all out in the fields enjoying the sunshine and occasional rain too.

Now, back to the football - and as I join fans from countries around the world in being glued to the World Cup coverage, I truly hope that the refereeing decisions which are taken will be the right ones.

Belfast Telegraph

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