A PSNI officer has spoken of his “overwhelming sense of pride and duty” as he prepares to donate his kidney to a schoolboy.
Graham Dodds, who joined the force to serve 23 years ago, sees the chance to donate a kidney to nine-year-old Joshua Dolan, from Enniskillen, as a practical way to help someone.
The former Chief Inspector for Fermanagh and Omagh responded to a recent appeal by Joshua’s mother, Mary, looking for a donor for her son after tests showed no family member was suitable.
Many people would have read the story in The Impartial Reporter newspaper and then turned the page, but Graham felt he had to act.
He picked up the phone and contacted Belfast City Hospital, which Joshua attends for dialysis and where four years previously he had undergone tests to see if his kidney matched a work colleague who at the time needed a transplant.
Blogging for Kidney Care UK ahead of the procedure at the hospital, Graham said he hoped the surgery would give Joshua “a quality of life every nine-year-old deserves to have”.
“I have two kidneys, but for the last few months I’ve been looking after one of them for Joshua," he added.
“He has just one kidney, and with only 17% function he requires three-times-a-week dialysis sessions at the children’s hospital in Belfast.
"That’s 500 miles each week to be hooked up for 12 hours to a dialysis machine. I simply had to help.”
Following tests, Joshua and Graham had their surgery date set for May 18. If everything goes according to plan, the schoolboy could be on the road to recovery within three or four months.
One connection the pair share is Joshua’s interest in the police, so when the operation is complete, Graham is going to give him his 23-year-old police whistle, a St. Michael’s medallion he has attached to it, a police cap and a pair of handcuffs.
With Covid-19 still in mind, Graham has been self-isolating, working from home and keeping contact to an absolute minimum for the last few weeks ahead of the surgery.
“It really is a matter of keeping fit and healthy for Josuha. I’m looking after his kidney for him until we have our surgery,” he said.
“I have two kidneys. I only need one. With an operation lasting roughly four hours — not much longer than one of Joshua’s dialysis sessions — I have it within me to release him.
“Northern Ireland’s living kidney donor programme, headed up by the amazing Dr. Aisling Courtney and her team, is envied across the world as it performs life-enhancing and life-saving surgery. It’s a privilege to be part of its continued success.
“It always amazes me that Joshua’s smile can light up any room. That is despite going through such a difficult start in life, with sickness coming on so suddenly at a time when his peers enjoy the freedoms so cruelly denied to him.
"He is a determined young boy. I want to match that determination with a sense of duty in becoming an altruistic living donor to him.”
Graham said preparing to donate to Joshua during the Covid pandemic had been tricky yet rewarding.
He added: “We have formed a strong bond over our numerous online chats. I’m delighted Joshua has such a burning interest to learn more about the police.
"It really does give him a buzz to know he is getting a kidney from a police officer. To see his winning smile post-surgery will be all the reward I need.”