Kidney op gran numb at loss of 'wee hero' cousin Ray
A Co Tyrone grandmother is preparing to say goodbye to her "wee hero" cousin, who passed away a year after donating his kidney.
Briege Dorman was given a new lease of life after spending six years on dialysis waiting for a suitable donor.
The 58-year-old from Coalisland has spent the last 12 months enjoying life's simple pleasures for the first time in years.
The mother-of-four, however, was left "numb and devastated" after her cousin, Raymond Hughes, was found dead at his home earlier this week.
The 53-year-old journalist, who suffered from epilepsy, died exactly a year after he donated his healthy kidney.
While the family await the post-mortem results, they suspect the dad-of-two died from an epileptic fit in his sleep.
"I am just numb and devastated," Briege said.
"He is my wee hero and I am utterly bereft and heartbroken at the loss of such an unassuming, gentle, kind and giving soul. This was the last thing we were expecting."
Briege lost one of her kidneys to cancer just before the other one stopped working.
For six years she had to undergo four-hour dialysis sessions three times a week while travelling from her home to Newry in a two-hour round trip.
She was left exhausted after every trip and was unable to socialise or attend family events.
"I would have went to the shop and got half way down the aisle and have to go back to the car," she said.
"I had no social life and couldn't go shopping with my daughter for her wedding dress.
Then, out of the blue last January, Raymond casually asked how he could become a donor.
"I took it lightly, as a lot of people ask how they can help and never do, so I never passed any remarks," she said.
"I told him that he would have to go to Belfast and joked they would have to do an MOT to see if we could be a match.
"A few months later he told me he went for the tests and it was all okay and we were a perfect match. He then told me they were doing the surgery the following month and I nearly fell off the chair.
"I asked him was he sure this is what he wanted to do, as sometimes it can be worse on the donor, but he told me that we were doing it."
Raymond made one request - they didn't tell any of their family members until after the operation.
Briege added: "When it was a success, everyone, especially his dad, were so proud of him when they found out.
"I was elated, but afraid for both of us in case it didn't work.
"After the operation he was in good form and was happy with how it all went.
"He didn't want to publicise what he did, but one day he went for a walk around the hospital and discovered it was donor week and he came back to me and said we would have to go public. It was life-changing and he wanted to tell everyone to do it.
"A year later we were flying and going really well, but now he's dead and I can't believe it."
On Wednesday, two police officers called at Briege's home to break the sad news that the talented reporter had been found dead.
"I had to go to his father's house and break the news to him and his brothers and sisters," she added.
"Raymond was more than a donor, he was a brilliant journalist and was so articulate.
"He gave me the most amazing gift, but I don't want to take away from him as a person.
"Raymond didn't want the accolades that were given to him when he first gave me his kidney, but then he found out that week was organ donor week and he said 'we have to go public with this and encourage others to become donors, if they see how well we did they may think about doing it. This is life changing stuff'.
"He always thought of others so unselfishly and I know that part of him lives on in me and for that I'm eternally grateful."
Raymond's funeral takes place tomorrow at the Church of the Holy Family in Coalisland.